Vivian Leva’s voice is the sound of living tradition. Raised by parents who absorbed ancient tunes and ballads during visits to legendary old-time musicians, Ms. Leva grew up steeped in the Appalachian and country music of her Lexington, VA home. On Time Is Everything, her debut, Leva earns a spot in the lineage of great neo-traditional songwriters like Gillian Welch and Sarah Jarosz; much like these singers, she finds inspiration in the past without being stifled by it.
Though still in college, Leva’s musical roots run deep. She grew up going to fiddle festivals with her parents, both acclaimed roots musicians themselves, who perform as the duo, Jones and Leva. Her father, James, is a respected multi-instrumentalist who learned knee-to-knee from old-time legends like Tommy Jarrell and Doug Wallin, while her mother, Carol Elizabeth, picked up bygone songs from a now lost generation of singers and recorded with the pioneering bluegrass duo, Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard. Leva soaked up this influence at a young age, and, at age 9, began penning songs and performing with her father at venues like the prestigious Carter Family Fold.
Beginning with “Bottom Of The Glass”, you hear a gathering of rich harmonies, some tasteful pedal steel runs and a traditional country feel and at moments, a charming yelp in Ms. Leva’s voice, which belies her youth – it’s strong and measured; the title track is warm and embracing as well as catchy – this could easily be a hit on country radio and “No Forever” is very much an old-fashioned fiddle-driven piece – pure bluegrass and on-the-one. “Cold Mountains” is in the same vein; you can feel the hills and tradition of Appalachia in the visual sense, if you close your eyes while listening (note the muted banjo); “Why Don’t You Introduce Me As Your Darlin'” is a perfect return to the original sound of country, with fiddle runs, pedal-steel and very reminiscent of Tammy Wynette, etc., while “Every Goodbye” is a lovely, tempered ballad sung in a quieter register with just mandolin as the background (unless it’s, again, muted banjo).
For an artist so young, Vivian Leva has the approach and songwriting skills of a seasoned master. Certainly, her understanding of this music is pure and I can only think she cannot do anything but continue to grow and make great on such a powerful beginning.
Time Is Everything is currently available