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Rob Levit: Touch the Spirit

Budd Kopman By

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Rob Levit is an amazing guitarist and a deep, feeling musician. Uncertain Path (Symbol System, 2004) revealed his electric side alongside a band, and now Touch the Spirit explores his solo relationship with the acoustic guitar, both steel and nylon, with a bit of electric thrown in. Levit is also a bit of a Renaissance man—he painted the album art. Openly indebted to such guitarists as Tim Reynolds, John McLaughlin and Pat Metheny, he also specifically mentions Keith Jarrett (and his 1986 ECM album Spirits) as inspiration.

The 24 cuts naturally are on the short side, meant to explore Levit's extremely prodigious guitar technique, rather than make any extended musical statements or even follow a suite of movements. This is not to say that technique dominates musical content, although it is very easy to be overwhelmed by it. Rather, the many individual pieces are tied together by Levit's emotional communication and his extremely eclectic musical tastes. By the end of the record, you may realize that you are in the presence of a very giving person who just happens to be able to play the hell out of the guitar in many different styles.

Most of the tracks are truly solo, but a few are overdubbed with a second guitar voice and sometimes percussion or voice. The many different sounds of the title cut make it feel overtly spiritual, from the opening meditation bell to the low, Tibetan-sounding single-note chant with overtones. Against these spiritual world-sounds, Levit plays lines on the steel-string guitar that sometimes sound Eastern, thus setting up the rest of the record.

"Radiance," a pretty musical vignette dedicated to Keith Jarrett, has two intertwining fingerpicked guitars. "Disjunction Blues" explores the blues and extends it with blazing picking and finger styles, while "Naked Blues" brought me back to Steve Stills' "Black Queen" at times, also showing that Levit can sing the lines he plays.

The longest track, "The Borderland"—which contains many different layered sounds, including deep distortion and high harmonics, behind drums and percussion—is a true musical journey. Levit plays the main Eastern-sounding line on an electric guitar with overdrive and effects. The overall feeling is a combination of the hypnotic and the ecstatic.

Levit seems to be bursting with the need to touch the listener with his music. He has many things to say and a nearly unlimited technique with which to say them. But there is never a moment on Touch the Spirit when empty string-shredding takes precedence.

Track Listing: Touch the Spirit; Sunken Cathedral; Radiance; The Traveler; The Gift of Lilies; Disjunction Blues; The Atonement; The Journey West; The Stranger; Country-blue; Through the Gap; Drum Wisdom; My Empress shall not Weep; The Borderland; The Bridge; Song for Christopher; Homecoming; A Flash of Joy; Naked Blues; Forgotten Song; The Ancient; Child-like; Branches; The Last Step

Personnel: Rob Levit; acoustic steel string and nylon string guitar; electric guitar, vocals, percussion

Title: Touch the Spirit | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Symbol System Records


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