EDMONTON, CA (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — One of Canada’s leading progressive roots artists, Alana Levandoski, will perform this weekend at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival in Edmonton, Alberta (Aug. 6-9).
Her new album “Lions & Werewolves,” recorded in a 100-year-old church in rural Manitoba, and at the upscale Parr Street Studios in Liverpool, was released in Canada July 21 (2009) on Blue Lily Records, distributed by EMI Music Canada.
Levandoski's performance at the 2009 Winnipeg Folk Festival aired nationally on CBC Radio 2’s “Canada Live on Aug. 4. The show was recorded July 9th at Birds Hill Park near Winnipeg, Manitoba.
The show has also been posted as a "Concert on Demand" on the CBC Radio website http://www.cbc.ca/radio2/cod/concerts/20090709alana
Levandoski gained the respect, and endorsement of much of the international roots music world with her outstanding debut album "Unsettled Down" released by Rounder Records in 2006.
Reviews of "Unsettled Down" were plentiful and enthusiastic. Levandoski was profiled in numerous UK publications, including Maverick and The London Times, and in such national Canadian magazines as Maclean's, Chart and Penguin Eggs.
“Levandoski created waves with her debut, “Unsettled Down,” and her second album, partly recorded in a church in rural Manitoba has some stunning songs,” wrote Robin Eggar recently in The Sunday Times.
Levandoski's name evokes thundering tributes that go far beyond the customary comments made about hot new artists.
"Alana Levandoski is as refreshing as an ice cold drink on a hot summer night,” says iconic Canadian singer/songwriter Jann Arden. “And I mean that. She has an old soul and it shows up in every single line she writes. She sings as though she has circled the globe a half a dozen times, and yet remains optimistically innocent. Her voice is delicate and fragile and terribly wonderfully unique. Her music is about simple sentiment. LIving. Losing. Finding. Her voice is surrounded with organic sounds that could have stepped off the front porch somewhere in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. Hear her music once and become a fan for life."
Adds fellow Canadian singer Serena Ryder, "Alana has a palpable honesty in her writing and in her voice that makes you feel like you're having a conversation with a friend who knows you inside out."
“Lions & Werewolves” was produced by ace British producer Ken Nelson, renowned for his work with Gomez and Coldplay. He has also worked with Badly Drawn Boy, Snow Patrol, Polly Paulusma and Paolo Nutini.
"I had always wanted Ken to record this album,” Levandoski says. “I wanted someone outside of the roots world who is a fan of popular music. Somebody who could come from somewhere that, to me, was fresh. Unlike me, Ken didn't grow up listening to Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn. But I had no idea how I was going to go about getting him.”
One of Levandoski’s writing partners provided a link.
"I was writing with (Canadian songwriter) Simon Wilcox, and she mentioned that she knew Ken from working at his studio," recalls Levandoski. "I got in touch with Ken and heard my songs. I also played a gig in Liverpool. He agreed to work with me. I think he was intrigued by me, and he thought I was a good songwriter.”
Indeed, Nelson was intrigued enough to hop on an airplane across the pond to record Levandoski in her rural hometown, the small village of Kelwood, Manitoba with a population of 300. "Ken came to Kelwood to record in the middle of winter," Levandoski says, laughing. "Him, his son Mike and his engineer Mark Phythian flew in and my dad picked them up at the airport in Winnipeg."
“Lions & Werewolves” was primarily recorded at the St. John Divine Anglican Church in Kelwood.
“Before we started recording, Ken would walk a mile or two every morning,” recalls Levandoski. “My dad would pick him up on the road. He and the musicians were always all trying to find cell phone (signals) to connect. You’d see them walking around holding up their cell phones. They all had loved ones at home and wanted to stay in touch.”
While “Unsettled Down” was a coming-of-age album, “Lions & Werewolves” is a poised and mature work that stands with the works of the best of ‘60s story-tellers.
“With my first album, I felt that I had told a lot of the (prairie) stories that I didn’t need to retell them again,” says Levandoski. “As you grow and meet different people, life goes on. You have to acknowledge that this (being a performer) is your real life and it’s not fake. (For me) those stories started bubbling underneath the surface and then came out.”
Levandoski is proud of how the album turned out.
“It's very true. It’s not a contrived piece of work. Some people might be surprised that it evolved as much as it did. But I had over two years of touring in eight countries. And Ken is a very soft, subtle person who kind of goes through the room with a broom and cleans it up. I remember the musicians (bassist Milos Angelov, keyboardist David [Soul Fingaz] Williams, guitarist Murray Pulver and drummer Eric Paul) talking about how they felt naked when we were recording.”
"The last night that all the musicians were there we threw a listening party in the church just to hear the bed (tracks). We just blasted them out in the church and then we moved from there to the Canadian Legion Hall, because that's the only pub in town. Then someone came in and yelled, 'Northern lights!' Ken, Mike, and Mark had never seen northern lights before so we all went out to watch. It was a great way to end the sessions before I went to Liverpool to record final vocal tracks."
Levandoski was raised in Kelwood but she was born in nearby McCreary. Kelwood is where both her parents attended school and where her mother's family have received their mail for 50 years. Her father grew up on a farm 10 miles south and attended school in the village of Riding Mountain.
Alana's childhood came as rural Western Canada was undergoing a significant makeover, from a pastoral setting into corporate farm Canada. Kelwood was no longer a bustling farming community. The railway, along with the grain elevators, had been removed and the main highway had been rebuilt a mile to the west. So most businesses had closed.
After attending kindergarten in Kelwood, Levandoski was educated at home with her older sister Nadia, and younger brother Matthew.
Levandoski’s first involvement with music began at 9 until 13 performing in the gospel-styled band Family & Friends in her parents living room each week. She picked up a guitar when she was 12. She also took piano lessons for many years.
At 15, Levandoski began entering and winning local talent contests, performing mostly her own songs. Her first fully realized song was "Sailing From Holland" about being a sailor. "It's a good song but I was still developing my sound," she says.
At 17, Levandoski played off-and-on with 600 Bones, a Brandon, Manitoba group that performed jazz, folk and world beat. By 2001, after living briefly in Turkey, she was residing in Winnipeg and performing with Jamoeba, a 6-piece 'jam' band.
“People are always asking me to describe my music,” Levandoski laughs. “If you have to throw me into a genre say progressive roots, but I love the old country songwriters. I love Emmylou Harris. But I also grew up being a fan of British bands like U2, Radiohead, and Coldplay. All of these bands. There is something about them that is just fantastic. And I love AC/DC.”
Following "Unsettled Down” Levandoski toured the U.K. and Europe four times. She first performed in the UK and Europe in early 2006 with Dar Williams, Lynn Miles and Caroline Herring as well with Jess Klein. She returned to the UK in 2006 opening for the Elana James Trio, and fellow Canadians Blue Rodeo, and playing Canada Day 2006 in Trafalgar Square. She did a tour of Ireland and England in 2007 with fellow Canadian Lynn Miles
In Canada, she toured nationally with the Corb Lund Band and did dates with Stephen Fearing, the Arrogant Worms, and Tanya Tucker.
Over the years, Levandoski has co-written with such leading American songwriters as Quinn Loggins, Sam Ashworth, James LeBlanc, Rebecca Lynn Howard, Rachel Thibodeau, and Gary Nichols. She has also co-written with Canadians Sylvia Tyson, Colin Cripps, and Simon Wilcox.
“I totally love being with other songwriters, especially with those people who consider themselves to be story tellers. I feel like I am understood without having to talk about it.”
In 2007, Levandoski was featured on “Borrowed Tunes Two,” a two-CD musical tribute to Neil Young. It features Canadian artists including Barenaked Ladies, Ron Sexsmith, Dave Gunning, Finger 11 and Chantal Kreviazuk performing their favorite Neil Young song. Alana sings “Don’t be Denied.”
The same year, Levandoski was featured on the U.K. compilation "Bob Harris Presents" along with Alison Krauss, Cindy Bullens, John Prine, Billy Joel Shaver and Kathleen Edwards.
"I really believe in Alana,” says the legendary BBC Radio 2 announcer Bob Harris. “She is part of an emerging generation of new artists who are reflecting the range of influences that make Canadian music so exciting, from the brilliant free-form collective Broken Social Scene, to the authentic Country twang of Corb Lund. Her songs are intelligent, warm and strong. She's a fine artist, and a trouper." – by Larry LeBlanc