Virginia native Vivian Leva grew up steeped in the Appalachian tradition, learning from her parents who were both musicians. She began singing on stage aged nine and then formed many bands, developing a deep understanding of country, bluegrass and old time music. Her debut collection Time is Everything weaves these influences with modern Americana to create bittersweet songs full of wisdom about the nature of life and love.
Every decent country album should have a good drinking song and this album actually starts in the Bottom of the Glass. Sometimes the only cure for heartbreak is to drown your sorrows. Vocally there is an underlying sweetness to the delivery of all these songs, reminding me of the excellent I’m With Her album. Maybe Leva doesn’t roar or scream out in pain but beneath the weary surface her emotions are simmering.
The standout song on the album is the title track Time is Everything, a stunning meditation on the transient nature of love. Here she’s a victim of her own paranoia, spiralling out of control thinking about how her relationship is doomed. She craves commitment and can’t fight the nagging truth that love might disappear with time.
Sturdy as the Land, a stripped back bleak ballad, is on the other side of the relationship. Everything is over. She can’t understand how love and time have disappeared. The house they built and the land beneath their feet were strong and true but not enough to keep them standing. In the end nothing endures.
On the next song, a little bluegrass beauty, she starts to accept the reality that in life and love there ain’t No Forever. Maybe all you can do is get on the floor and dance until the inevitable end arrives. The quiet understated moments on the album like Every Goodbye and the piano ballad Here I Am are full of mournful sadness but the music does its best to soothe the pain.
By the time we reach Wishes & Dreams all hope in love is gone. Her voice starts to crack and stretch. She doesn’t sound angry, but there’s a sad acceptance of her fate. Why Don’t You Introduce Me As Your Darling, asks the difficult questions to her love – even if the answer might hurt, she needs to know. By using the word ‘darling’ and creating a classic honky tonk sound, Leva really makes this one feel like an authentic glimpse of a bygone era. Time moves on but history inevitability repeats itself in the way relationships unravel.
There may be louder records vying for your attention this year, but I suggest you stop where you are and give Time is Everything the quiet attention it deserves. Vivian Leva is a true talent, maybe even the last of her kind, so treat her well and her future will surely flourish.