Gwen Levey & The Breakdown – Not The Girl Next Door – EP
This artist draws heavily on personal experiences & her triumph over abuse & finding renewed strength in herself. A heavy-duty subject. She sings about recognizing bad situations & knowing when it’s time to hit burn rubber & go. The bad omens brought by others (alcoholism, violence, unstable personalities, stubbornness, psychobabble & being taken advantage of). It adds up to unhealthy relationships. But finding harmony is a lifelong search too.
The 5-track Not The Girl Next Door – EP (Drops Nov 3–Independent) is short stuff but it follows the close-to-the-bone formula Gwen has sung & mastered. The energetic songs are autobiographical & many artists draw inspiration from their own lives. Some like Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash, Leonard Cohen & John Prine have cleverly disguised their classics. With Mitchell, there was a “free man in Paris,” a Carey, a Nathan La Franeer & for Cohen there was a “Suzanne.” And one Christmas after a divorce, Prine did nail his Lionel train set tracks to the dining room table.
Levey doesn’t hide behind the big production in her songs. She does know how to project through a superb tight showcase. Her messages grind through clearly as evidenced by the many plays her initial single releases have, with tons of views & ruffled feathers.
I’m a bit older but Gwen reminds me of the no-nonsense melodic tough vocal intonations of the late 60s Lesley Gore (“That’s The Way Boys Are,” “It’s My Party & I’ll Do What I Want To,” & “Judy’s Turn To Cry”). Gwen’s band turns up the pilot light a little higher & the overall approach is a page ripped from that Gore songbook. Taunt & rambunctious. It comes through on “Not The Girl Next Door.”
Gwen isn’t as coarse as Janis Joplin or pop-synthetic as Taylor Swift. Gwen’s country music is the dominating double-fisted kind & not afraid to make light of a serious subject. Her songs are well-written & melodic. Never so message-driven as to be preachy & radical. Gwen delivers with sophistication & not with a temper. But she does draw attention.
With “The Next Lifetime,” it sounds like Ms. Levey’s sympathetic. Shows empathy rather than toxicity toward someone she thinks she loves. Band-wise it’s like Fleetwood Mac fronted by Joan Jett. Not sure if that video for “Barefoot & Pregnant” will find air time in the Bible Belt though. But the truth is not always accommodating, is it? Sing the song, Gwen. I got your back.
Highlights – “Not The Girl Next Door.” “The Next Lifetime,” “Toxic City,” “Barefoot & Pregnant,”
Musicians – Ilya Toshinskly (acoustic guitar), Sol Littlefield (lead guitar), Mark Hill (bass), Chris McHugh (drums), Jeff Roach (keys) & Sherrie Austin (bgv).
The 15-minute CD @ Apple & Amazon + https://orcd.co/notthegirlnextdoor