Record produced by legendary Trina Shoemaker (Brandi Carlile, Sheryl Crow)
Accompanying BBC documentaries planned for 2023
Doug Levitt, who has travelled more than 12 years and 120,000 Greyhound bus miles writing songs about fellow travellers, has announced his debut full-length album, Edge of Everywhere, to be released on March 3. Today, Levitt has also shared its anthemic title track, which fans can now streamhere. Americana Highways recently praised “Edge of Everywhere,” saying, “Bright acoustic strings and soul searching lyrics earmark Doug Levitt’s music as the reflective, sorrowful catharsis we all need this season.”
Produced by multiple Grammy Award-winner Trina Shoemaker, the producer/engineer behind albums by Brandi Carlile, Josh Ritter, Sheryl Crow and Emmylou Harris, the album is drawn from Levitt’s travels by Greyhound bus and tells the tales of the folks he met along the way. “Our stories are where we meet.” Levitt says, “They are the crossroads of human experience.
Greyhound bus is the cheapest means of travel in the US and largely serves the poorest in the community. Inspired by Depression-era projects like that of Woody Guthrie and conscious of the increasingly deep inequalities within the country, Levitt has travelled to every single state in the continental US by Greyhound, and through these songs, is giving voice to those on the margins who often go unheard.
“Edge of Everywhere” is, as he puts it, a kind of “anthem from the edge,” a song about grit and defiance in the face of struggle and disparity. It’s inspired by Brenda, a graying woman who lost her job and home years back and is reflecting on the (metaphorical) hills and valley of LA, while pulling into her sprawling hometown.
“Living on the edge is a binding force on the bus,” Levitt says, “one that transcends any other differences in race, politics or culture.”
With a bourbon-rich baritone and a range that reaches the resonant heights of a falsetto at times recalling Cat Stevens, Levitt brings the listener along on a transcendental trip in which we are all travellers on a bus writ large.
“More than just a record,” Shoemaker, who has won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Americana Music Association, says, “these songs capture the essence of the broader project (including BBC documentaries), which tell the story of America through the eyes of people who don’t usually get a chance to tell their stories. And certainly not with poetry and grace, with respect and beauty, and somehow Doug really was able to. He is one of the best singer-songwriters I’ve heard in the last decade or more.”
Following the success of a BBC World Service documentary in 2018 (listening link here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csy0ww), two further documentaries about Levitt’s Greyhound journeys are planned for 2023 on BBC Radio 4 and BBC 4 TV. Both will feature excerpts of songs from Edge of Everywhere. More details to come.
Perhaps it was suffering tragedy as a young person which made Levitt so receptive to other people’s stories. When he was 16, he found his father dead by suicide. For years, he says, he couldn’t cry and turned to music as an outlet. But before using that music to reflect the journeys of others, he set out on his own, first at Cornell, where he studied Critical Thinking with Carl Sagan, and then as a London-based foreign correspondent for CNN and ABC filing dispatches from such places as Iran, Rwanda, Bosnia and Gaza. “At some point, in the midst of a breakdown, I realized if I didn’t commit fully to music now, I wasn’t going to do it. And I was afraid that if I didn’t, if I didn’t follow my instincts, that I would end up suffering a familiar fate.”
He followed those instincts to Music City, USA. Not long after moving to Nashville, Levitt set out on his first Greyhound bus tour, with nothing but an initial six-week bus pass, a Gibson J-100, a copy of Woody Guthrie’s Bound for Glory, a country to cross and an American story to tell — one about life from the margins in.
“The bus, of course, travels through the edge of so many quote nowheres, the very nowheres from which so many people who travel by bus come,” he says.
More than 120,000 Greyhound miles on from that first tour — with stops along the way playing in everything from prisons, VAs, and shelters to the Kennedy Center, Woody Guthrie Center, and Martin Luther King’s church — have all culmintated in the lush, expansive and moving opus that is Edge of Everywhere, a testament-in-song to belonging and connection in the face of uncertainty.
Edge of Everywhere Tracklist:
1) Cold Comfort
2) Edge of Everywhere
3) L.A. River
4) 40 West
5) They Killed Buddy Gray
6) Born in West Virginia
7) Run It All Back
8) Disaster Can Wait
9) Turning Myself In
10) Back in Okemah
11) Highway Signs
12) Two-Week Warrior