Vivian Leva & Riley Calcagno—Vivian Leva & Riley Calcagno

2021, Free Dirt Records


Vivian Leva and Riley Calcagno are the fresh new faces, voices and fingers in the line of musicians that can be traced back to porches and hollows. They are informed by old-time musicians, but recorded and produced with a modern polish. Vivian Leva’s singing is at the heart of the duo’s charming sound. She is comfortable in her own voice, letting the songs come to her, bending and extending phrases, slipping above and below notes to make the songs her own. Riley Calcagno is outstanding on fiddle, guitar and banjo, and is a skilled harmony singer. It sounds effortless, and why shouldn’t it? Leva and Calcagno channel the best of the traditional sounds that have poured into their listening ears since their baby days, performing on stages from an early age long before they met each other. Production by award winning Cajun musician and producer Joel Savoy impeccably captures the duo’s vivaciousness over a variety of roots and country styles. Most of the songs were created shuttling digitally back and forth to each other as they maintained a long distance partnership while attending different colleges. Themes of separation and challenged relationships predominate and melancholy pervades the old-timey harmonies, contrasting with duo’s youthful energy and neo-traditional arrangements. Guitars, banjo and fiddle weave their magic, but some of the songs also have piano, peddle steel and studio rhythm sections. The lyrics tell their story plainly like a country song should, but they are not lacking in subtly shifting shades of mood, as in “On the Line,” “Making believe you're telling me everything/ Playing the fool and playing the game/ Taking a chance putting it all on the line/ But we're talking 'bout our day so everything is fine.” [Check out a live video of this song here] Leva and Calcagno are among the finest of those carrying the torch of traditional music, respectfully updating it with their own considerable and genuine talent. —Michael Devlin

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