Get this crazy baby off my head!


Barry Levenson


Barry Levenson - Heart to Hand - 1998 - Storyville

Barry Levenson's "Heart To Hand" is a surprisingly disc in more ways than one. First, it's surprising that a talent such as Levenson's has not been heard from before. Second, the breadth and scope of the music and the musicianship is surprising from such a relative "unknown". Finally, that this release is not on a major label is surprising! Levenson is, first and foremost, a musician. Inspired to play guitar after listening to Buddy Guy's quintessential blues opus, "A Man and the Blues", Levenson's musical pilgrimage has taken him from being a blues purist through jazz, r&b, studio work and finally fronting his own band. This disc is actually not Levenson's first release, he had an earlier release on the resurrected Kent label which evidently received limited release and no promotion in America. Apparently leaving a bad taste in his mouth for recording labels, Levenson has made a stellar disc on his own, production wise. Combining the influences of his musical journey, Levenson works through eleven cuts that merge his love for West Side Chicago blues with r&b and jazz, performed with a razor's edge approach to the guitar ala Danny Gatton (another influence to whom Levenson pays homage here). The majority of the cuts are flowing, sometimes driving, instrumentals, but with vocals on three being contributed by Williams Sisters member Mary Williams, Finis Tasby and Johnny Dyer. While the purist may wonder at times where Levenson's music is headed, the journey is always exciting. Levenson has indeed communicated his "Heart to Hand", and the listeners always benefits from it! © 1999-2010. All Rights Reserved © http://www.jazzloft.com/p-45273-heart-to-hand.aspx

On this wide-ranging set, guitarist Barry Levinson's debut, he is featured on all types of blues from lowdown to swinging. It is obvious, listening to these selections (all but three of which are instrumentals), that although Levenson is very much a bluesman, his roots are in jazz. He dedicates "Crawford's Grill" to guitarist Grant Green, uses the saxophonists liberally, and stretches out in his solos, sometimes hinting at Charlie Christian. The resulting music, which features Levenson with a strong rhythm section, should be of strong interest to collectors of both blues and blues-oriented jazz. © Scott Yanow © 2010 Rovi Corporation. All Rights Reserved http://www.allmusic.com/album/heart-to-hand-r368071

Barry Levenson is one great guitarist who is definitely not getting the credit he deserves. This guy is one of todays great guitar improvisators. He can play anything, but where blues and jazz is concered Barry is masterful. Eight of the 11 tracks are instrumental. "Wrong Side of the Blues" and "Steel Life" are great hard blues tracks. Mary Williams of the Williams Sisters gospel group sings "Whole Lotta Blues.", Finis Tasby sings "Slippin' Down", and Johnny Dyer sings and plays harmonica on 'Wrong Side Of The Blues'. But in the main the album is very much jazz influenced. For a couple of years in the late 2000's, Barry played with the legendary blues boogie band Canned Heat. "Heart to Hand" is a fabulous album and is VHR by A.O.O.F.C. Why has this guy not been signed to a major label? Buy Barry's "Hard Times Won" album and promote great music


1. Cobra Days/Blue Tears (for Danny Gatton)
2. Whole Lotta Blues (featuring Mary Williams)
3. Blue Stew
4. The Late Show (3:45 A.M.)
5. Royal Albert (for Albert Collins)
6. Slippin' Down (featuring Finis Tasby)
7. Earl's Ride (for Bob Fouts)
8. Steel Life
9. Wrong Side Of The Blues (featuring Johnny Dyer)
10. West Side Rain
11. Crawford's Grill (for Grant Green)
All tracks composed by Barry Levenson


Barry Levenson (guitar, alto horn)
Blake Watson (bass)
Mike Thompson (piano, Hammond B-3 organ)
Dave Kida (drums)
Phil Krawzak (saxophone, alto horn)
Chris Jennings (saxophone)
Johnny Dyer (vocals, harmonica)
Finis Tasby, Mary Williams (vocals)


"A magnificent album...essential listening." Blues Review

"This is a great CD. This album challenges other players who want to work in the blues idiom. Levenson’s playing has a foot firmly in the past but the material is fresh and new." Vintage Guitar

"This is a fine album of rare, heartfelt blues, no frills, no rock excesses, sheer class and quality." Blues Matters

"Levenson is a stunning guitarist with an uncanny sense of taste and amazing tone who never overplays. Levenson has learned his lessons well displaying the intensity of a young Buddy Guy while other times drawing from B.B. King, T-Bone Walker and even jazz guitarists Grant Green and Charlie Christian. By contrast Dyer's big, raw tone and hard blowing summon up the ghosts of Walter Horton and Little Walter with a touch of laid-back West Coast coolness. The contrast between the two works remarkably well backed by a tight band that produces some great ensemble playing." Bad Dog Blues

"A monster blues talent! All killer no filler... Even guitar-tired listeners will be astounded by his palette of tone and technique . . . an important debut full of emotional intensity." Tom Hyslop, Blues Revue

“The liner notes tell it straight when they describe Barry Levenson’s excellent guitar playing as part traditional blues and part ‘bop, jazz and beyond.’ Having learned his chops at the sides of such West Coast greats such as Pee Wee Crayton and Percy Mayfield, Levenson brings a full, jazzy feel to his playing and arrangements. Heart to Hand also includes a couple of hard blues numbers, Wrong Side of the Blues and Steel Life. Fans of modern blues and jazz guitar will find much here to like.” Living Blues Magazine

"The absolute best "independent" release I've come across to date...For lovers of jazz and blues, this disc is a definite must hear." Jon Duttweiler, NY CD Blues

“With this debut CD it seems he wants to pay tribute to the guitarists who influenced him the most, and he succeeds in an outstanding way! It's hard to avoid the comparison with Ronnie Earl, who's also making instrumental music these days, but Barry has a lot more fire in him. The best of this fine album are 'Crawford's Grill', an ode to Grant Green that would make him happy if he could hear it, and certainly 'Earl's Ride', an enormously swinging big band sound with the fat and greasy horns behind Barry's wild guitar. This is a highly enjoyable acquaintance with a guitarist likely to be very much appreciated by lovers of the style. Barry should try to find a full-time singer, just like Funderburgh with Myers and Holmstrom with Dyer, that would make things even better.” Marc Nolis, Rootstown Music Magazine

"Barry Levenson's debut CD, Heart to Hand, is one of the year’s best blues releases. This is one fine CD! Run to CDNOW and order this one! NOW!" Christopher Francis, Blue Monday

"A former producer for Kent Records, Barry Levenson launches Danish label Storyville's foray into the US market, and this could well be a winner. Levenson is a guitar stylist who has mixed in both jazz and blues circles, producing myriad tones from his '61 Strat. The accent is on blues, with nods to his heroes - Otis Rush and Buddy Guy on 'Cobra Days/Blue Tears', Albert Collins on 'Royal Albert' - but there are jazz runs aplenty too. Eight of the 11 tracks are instrumental, while three notable vocalists cover the others: Mary Williams (of gospel group the Williams Sisters), Finis Tasby, and Johnny Dyer, who contributes some rich harp to 'Wrong Side Of The Blues'. The album is brimming over with quality playing, and while the high proportion of instrumentals may not appeal to non-partisans, guitar fanatics will be poring over every bent note." ALAN EMPSON, Juke Blues

"Levenson, backed by his longtime rhythm section, keeps you interested and dazzled on every tune and the vocal cuts are perfectly placed. This is a brilliant CD and a true labor of love that must not be missed." Jack Clifford, Bluespeak

"A very, very special blues CD from a very special artist. Remarkable music from an equally remarkable musician. If stardom was to be awarded solely on the merits of talent and dues-paying, Barry Levenson would be as well-known as Buddy Guy. The sound is excellent, production and arrangements (by Levenson) flawless, and the performances inspired and imaginative." Andy Grigg, Real Blues

"American guitarist’s self-produced disc has found a home on the Danish Storyville label. Levenson’s playing shows a great deal of stylistic range and sensitivity. Finis Tasby, Mary Williams and Johnny Dyer provide the occasional vocal counterpoints to what is at heart a guitar player’s album." Blues Access Magazine

"In an era where guitarists throw in every lick that has ever crossed their minds, its refreshing to hear an album of over thirty-plus minutes of soloing in which the player is obviously holding back as Levenson offers highly-refined improvisations where all the extraneous notes have been edited out. In an age of postmodern simulations, then, HEART TO HAND, is a high modernist masterpiece and the only question that remains: does blues guitar have anything else to say after this?" Guitar World Magazine

“That CD is really killing me! There is a lot going on and a lot being extremely understated until "just" the right moment! You're on a roll! That whole record has a bunch a grooves that are very infectious… BL really got me on a real natural "brain endorphine RUSH." Barry is indeed a real wizard…I have faith in music once again as for a while back things were looking pretty dismal at best! No more ... thanks to Barry's new endeavors and Storyville label!” Dean Farley, Vintage Guitar

"Heart to Hand will particularly appeal to those who enjoy mature, modern sounding blues that has great production values with real bite. Above all else, it's very listenable and enjoyable music." Al Handa, Delta Snake Blues News

"Sparks fly from the strings of his Stratocaster time and again. With a fine band, Levenson works musical sorcery and comes up a winner on every track. The title Heart to Hand tells it like it is." River Reporter

"My favorite Guitar Slinger CD!" Bluzharp

“Barry Levenson’s HEART TO HAND, with one foot in the future of electric guitar and one foot standing in the rich tradition of six-string blues, rightfully ranks as one of the most fully realized and innovative guitar recordings of the 1990s.” - Frank Joseph, Guitar Player, Guitar World contributing writer

“...Stunningly original soloist with the intensity and emotion of a young, hungry Buddy Guy.” - Denny Bruce, former producer, Fabulous Thunderbirds; former manager, Magic Sam and Earl Hooker

“It’s been a long time since I’ve heard such authoritative and creative guitar work with such a great bluesy feel!” - Mike Vernon, producer

“The best blues CD I have heard in the past five years!” - Matt Walters, Producer, Smithsonian Folkways

“This extremely talented guitarist/songwriter/producer has created one fine disc.” - Jon Pepper, Southland Blues Magazine

“Just when you thought guitar records were on the way out, here comes HEART TO HAND, a true masterpiece of originality, musicianship and virtuosity.” - Marc Tucker, Camera Obscura


Pittsburgh native Barry Levenson’s lifelong love affair with the blues began at an early age. At fourteen, an older friend played him some of Buddy Guy’s Vanguard records and Levenson immediately fell hopelessly and passionately in love with this great American art form. After playing in numerous blues bands in his home town, Levenson landed a job doing studio work, which he still does to this day. He then moved to Boston to study arranging at the Berklee School of Music. While in Boston, he became the house guitarist at Boston’s premier rhythm and blues hot spot, the Sugar Shack, backing up numerous R&B and soul greats. Looking for a better climate, both musically and weather-wise, Levenson next moved to the sunny climes of Southern California, where he immediately began working with such blues greats as Big Mama Thornton, Pee Wee Crayton, Percy Mayfield, Lowell Fulson and J.D. Nicholson. Of this exciting and fruitful period, Levenson says, “I was lucky to get in on the tail end of the incredible L.A. blues scene because within a few years, most of these great artists had passed on.” Levenson then formed his own group called the Automatics, which landed a recording contract with famed Kent Records where he was the house producer. The guitarist’s next step was to land a deal with the prestigious European jazz and blues label, Storyville Records under his own name. Levenson’s first release, Heart to Hand, received critical raves and was one of the most popular instrumental releases of the decade. At this juncture in Levenson’s career he was hired as a producer and A&R man for Storyville, finding undiscovered and overlooked talent, then producing and recording them. This was then followed by the Closer to the Blues release which garnered an invitation to the prestigious Blues Estafette Festival in Holland. Levenson’s latest release for Storyville, Hard Times Won, earned him a Handy Award nomination for Blues Song of the Year. He was also included on 2 Delta Laserlight compilations, Blues Guitar Heaven along with Muddy Waters, T-Bone Walker and Mike Bloomfield to name a few; and Blues for a Rainy Day with T-Bone Walker, Buddy Guy and Bobby Bland. Other highlights of Levenson’s career include work on William Clarke’s Groove Time CD, numerous blues festivals in Europe and the United States. Levenson still resides in Southern California and is an in-demand studio guitarist whose work has appeared in many movies, television and commercials. He gigs regularly around Southern California and is now playing with one of America’s greatest and most loved bands, Canned Heat. © http://www.barrylevenson.com/Bio.htm