Album Review: Vivian Leva & Riley Calcagno

Vivian Leva’s last album ‘Time is Everything’ was an underrated folk country gem and on this new self-titled album she promotes her previous collaborator Riley Calcagno to equal billing. You sense the deep musical and songwriting connection between the duo, who together have created an authentic, effortless country sound.

The use of fiddle is particularly effective throughout the album, especially in the opening track ‘Will You’ a cheating song where the narrator admits to making a mistake and hopes for forgiveness.

Leaving on Our Minds and My Teardrops Say are both great classic country songs of heartbreak and longing. Hollowed Hearts is a lovely stripped back ballad which makes a plea for understanding. On The Line uses banjo beautifully, musing on the nature of love and separation (the duo were apart during the pandemic). The songwriting standout Biding All My Time also deals with the same theme, with added drinking and regret.

Love and Chains is the only real ‘duet’ where Calcagno sings any lead vocal, and they have a comfortable, sweet, serene feel to their dynamic. Together they sound like they are just sitting watching the light fade, trying to avoid the troubles of the world.

Both artists were raised on mountain string music and so On Account of You uses these influences to engaging effect. On songs Red Hen and You Don’t See Me, Leva’s lyrics take a darker turn writing about being an outsider, someone who has struggled with fitting into the noisy, conflicted world around us.

Separation, sadness, loneliness, isolation, heartbreak are eternal problems, felt even more deeply this year than ever. Vivian Leva and Riley Calcagno seem like two old souls from another time, creating music that sounds like sunset itself: melancholic, beautiful, timeless.


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