Fishman Artist // Duke LevineKnown as the consummate sideman, Duke Levine is the most in-demand roots guitarist in the city of Boston's roots music scene. Having performed with a who's who list of artists Peter Wolf, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Colvin, Aimee Mann, Kathy Mattea, Sleepy LaBeef, Ellis Paul, Dar Williams, Otis Rush, and more Duke is finally stepping out on his own. He celebrated the release of his fourth, new, all instrumental disc, Beneath the Blue, at the Atwood Tavern in Cambridge on Tuesday December 11, 2007.
In 1961, Duke was born Robert Levine in Worcester, MA. The nickname Duke came about because of stories his told when he was a kid. He started playing guitar at age 8, and after his high school graduation, he joined the regional band Crockett. He grew up listening to known artists as Duane Eddy, the Beatles, Merle Haggard, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.
Duke came to Boston in the mid 1980's and went to study at the New England Conservatory of Music. He studied with Mick Goodrick (with Gary Burton's band) and Bob Moses. (Bob Moses led the world music group Mozamba, which included Stan Strickland and Billy Martin, who would join Medeski, Martin and Wood later).
While performing with the Boston duo The Story, Duke was seen by Mary Chapin Carpenter's management team and asked if he wanted the guitarist's role for her upcoming Stones in the Road tour. That's typical of the sideman role. he says. One thing leads to another. His first national gig was with Carpenter at the Grammy Awards in 1995. He says that, not only had I never done TV, but I had never played with anyone of that magnitude.
In 2001, he stopped touring with Carpenter and began to concentrate on local projects with artists such as Ellis Paul, Bill Morrisey, Catie Curtis, and Kathy Mattea. He also managed to put out three solo albums where he's shown his talent playing the guitar, mandola, omnichord, lap steel, dobro, and bass.
With his new instrumental album, Beneath the Blue, Duke's taken a more mellow approach. "I didn't want to alienate anyone with the new record," he says. "I just wanted to make the kind of record that I like listening to."
His new album was recorded live in the studio, with Paul Bryan on bass, Jay Bellerose on drums, Kevin Barry on lap steel and acoustic guitar, and Kenny White on organ. I put my amp next to the drum kit, so there was no safety net, no room for fixes, he says. There are a couple of overdubs from Kevin and Kenny, but the bulk of it is the live takes, with complete performances from everyone. For me, this was something a little different, and I feel like anything you can do as a player/artist to break out of your usual routine is good. There's a lot of space and, as I mentioned, not a lot of ripping. My mom thinks there's not enough flashy stuff, but I am trying to convince her that maybe the next record will be all flash. She's not convinced, and maybe even a little worried.
As his history has shown us, Mrs. Levine really has nothing to worry about.