Thursday, February 3, 2011

Review: Levi Kreis “Where I Belong”

Adult Contemporary
Levi Kreis has been making some moves on many fronts – writing, recording, singing, and acting. All four are connected by a common thread: his passion for music. He won a Tony Award in 2010 for his portrayal of the great Jerry Lee Lewis in Million Dollar Quartet, a shoe-in for the role as his own piano playing has been described as “like watching somebody speaking in tongues”. On the music side he has been making big strides, sharing the stage with the likes of Melissa Etheridge and Collective Soul, even though he really doesn’t sound anything like either of those artists.

“Where I Belong” is his third record – it first hit stores in May 2009 but has been making new waves lately on the heels of successful singles such as “Nothing At All” and “Gonna Be Alright”. The music of Levi Kreis is distinctly adult contemporary, but difficult to categorize further as it is an amalgamation of pop, R&B, and gospel. Listen hard enough and you can hear those southern roots from this Tennessee native buried under the high gloss sheen of his Hollywood sound.

While the music is geared towards adults, the lyrics are surprisingly childish. Positive and inspiring at times, but pretty corny. “Gonna Be Alright” is all right – a jangly piano a la New Radicals over a moderate rap a la Jason Mraz. He throws a little love for Stevie Wonder in the lyrics, “I think the only thing that’s keeping me alive is a good cup of coffee and songs in the key of life”, and borrows generously from him in other songs. The next track to hold my attention was a grand piano ballad, “Nothing At All”, reminding me of Joshua Kadison. “Everything” is a sweet tune with horns providing a sunny vibe that is sure to get some toes tapping and heads nodding. “No Apologies” comes across like Gavin DeGraw fronting Lynyrd Skynyrd backed by a gospel choir – might be hard to imagine, but it actually works in some places. The disparate musical styles he likes to blend mesh better in the anthem “Not Afraid”.

For me, Levi Kreis is a little too glitzy and a little too adult for my tastes, and the music lacks strong hooks. One thing no one can dispute, however, is that Kreis has a skilled voice with a warm tone - a winning combination if he can find some truly memorable songs. Still, there’s a little something in here on “Where I Belong” for fans of Mat Kearney, Gavin DeGraw, and Michael Buble.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 5, 6, 11

Levi Kreis on MySpace. Official site.

Listen to “Gonna Be Alright”