With his 2014 album You, Me and the Silence, Nate Leavitt emerged from the side of the stage and announced himself as a gifted artist in his own right. Already a respected guitarist on the Boston scene, the record showcased his rugged vocals and carefully crafted songwriting, gaining him a Boston Music Award nomination in the process. The next step was the 2016 EP, Someone Send a Signal, recorded with his band The Elevation it positioned him as the leader of his own gang, a confident frontman inspired by the talented musicians around him.
It makes perfect sense that he would call his band The Elevation. Having played lead guitar in groups such as OldJack, Parlour Bells, The Blizzard of 78 and Delta Clutch for a little over twenty years, Leavitt knows all too well how working with others can help songs transcend their origins and elevate performance to a new level. As he says himself “their musicianship pushes me to be a better player and leader, plus they keep me humble and honest.”
Together with regular bandmates Magen Tracy (piano and backing vocals), Dan Nicklin (harmonica, omnichord, guitar and backing vocals) Brendan Boogie (bass) and Paul Myers (drums), he returns with the new album, I Miss Me Too. Spontaneity was very much the order of the day this time, with Leavitt only introducing the tracks to the others the same night that he intended them to be recorded, enabling them to capture on record the unique familial environment of Dan Nicklin’s Henley Row Studio in Boston.
These latest songs build on the ghost folk of Someone Send a Signal – as if the spirits of Neil Young, Wilco and Jason Isbell met up late one night for a secret recording session down in Muscle Shoals. Blending elements of roots, americana and rock, it is the convergence of Leavitt’s musical journey to date. If you listen closely enough you can even hear the influence of 80’s hair metallers, and childhood heroes, Dokken on his guitar playing.
Anyone who has even seen Nate Leavitt and The Elevation live will know all about their intense and moody sound. You might have even witnessed him having one of “those” moments where he steps outside himself, wholly entwined with his music. Through his involvement with The Outlaw Roadshow, Leavitt can count Adam Duritz of Counting Crows as a fan, and a front row spectator whenever the show rolls into town.
At the heart of the music is Leavitt’s introspective songwriting and his continuing search to define life’s contradictions, as well as the resoluteness of the human spirit. “I can be afraid of what comes out when I start writing,” he says “I go deep inside myself to find something to share and it’s a very personal process for me.” The genesis is a simple chord progression or mumbled melody, a bare skeleton to be flesh out and nurtured, either alone or with the help of his band. If you stripped back the layers of sound you would discover a classic singer songwriter but it’s far better to just let Nate Leavitt and The Elevation lift you up and carry you away.
Written by Duncan Haskell