Levi Cuss will release a new album

Levi Cuss will release a new album

Levi Cuss letting it go

The older Levi Cuss gets, the more he’s attuned to the adage ‘live and let live.’

The older Levi Cuss gets, the more he’s attuned to the adage ‘live and let live.’

“Forgiveness was always a weird thing for me. I used to be … the kind of person who thinks everything has to be exactly right,” admitted the 39-year-old Red Deer roots singer.

“But I’ve learned not to judge. I mean, everybody screws up in some way or another, so let’s not be so hard about it.”

If there’s a thread running through Cuss’s new album, Night Thief, it’s about “seeing the truth of how tough life is,” and not pointing fingers at other people’s foibles, said Cuss.

A non-judgmental spirit saturates his new songs, including Tecumseh, which tells of a woman forgiving her brother’s killer. “They actually run off together and live as happily-ever-after as it gets in my world,” said Cuss, with a wry chuckle.

Night Thief will be released on Saturday, March 21, at a concert at The Vat in Red Deer that includes performances by Cuss and his four-piece band, as well as an opening set by The Charlie Jacobson Band.

The new album was made in Nashville with multiple-Juno-Award winning producer Steve Dawson, and also includes the talents of some excellent session musicians — including a drummer who’s played with Bruce Cockburn and a bassist who’s backed Blackie and the Rodeo Kings.

Cuss was staggered by “the sheer magnitude” of the players. “The calibre and quality of the music on the album is second to none,” said the musician, who believes Night Thief lifts his songs to new heights, so was worth the enormous effort needed to get the album made.

The whole project took more than a year to complete, with Cuss working long days and nights at music gigs, his construction job and other side projects to cover recording costs.

“I’ve had only four days off since September — Christmas Day, New Year’s and a couple of other days,” said Cuss, who figures he’s been pulling 70-hour work weeks for six months. “Now I’ll have to settle down — because I’ll die if I don’t!”

All joking aside, mortality actually was something he had to deal with during the making of the album.

Cuss’s favourite uncle, who had been sick for some time, passed away while the musician was in Nashville last spring. It was a big blow to the singer/guitarist, who recalled pouring the “hardness” of that news into the songs he was recording.

“The vibe in the studio was more intense and gritty because of it. It hurt me. But when we were done, I thought, you know what? (The album) is better” because of the emotional undercurrents, Cuss recalled.

“There’s a give and take to everything, I guess, a ying and a yang.”

Murder of Crows, Dark Horse and Tongues are some of his new songs with darker themes. But Bring it Back and Grandma are upbeat, although the latter reflects on the death of a grandparent.

“My grandma was dying of lung cancer when I wrote the song,” said Cuss, “and it includes some hard bits about her life. … On Christmas Eve Day, she passed away, and it’s been a heavy thing. …”

Struggling to overcome limitations could be another thread running through Night Thief. His tune Utumbo pays musical homage to the late Nelson Mandela, who started out as an outlaw/freedom-fighter and ended up as a statesman/humanitarian.

“He didn’t accept the things that are wrong in the world. He decided to push the limits and make a change.”

To some degree, the same theme could also be applied to some of Cuss’s love songs. He admitted, “Love is such a tricky thing for me because the very nature of love is to take a risk.”

Those scared of getting hurt will never be fully open to the experience, so the divorced father of two teenagers muses, “sometimes you have to take a beating to move forward …”

Tickets to the show are $20 from The Vat, The Soundhouse, and Gilmore Guitars.