For their latest album, C-Level kindles a fiery blend of funk, punk, blues and reggae.
On “Burn Your Own Gasoline,” the Cleveland genre-bending trio of Dave Deitke (vocals, guitar), Cody Crose (bass) and Pat Boland (drums) ignites a blazing sonic wildfire that’s quickly spreading along Ohio’s north coast and the Midwest. It’s the band’s first release since 2018’s “Rights” concept EP.
“It’s about burning your own gasoline, running off your own fuel and inspiration, and the driving force behind it. We’ve been hustling real hard to get better spots and other sounds and stuff together, and we’ve been running off our own ambitions,” said Deitke about the band’s fourth album, which dropped Friday.
C-Level’s sizzling nine-track album opens with a timeless blues cover, “Bac Bac Train,” originally recorded by Mississippi Fred McDowell and later reinterpreted by Aerosmith. It features a rousing combination of bluesy, vibrant guitars and pounding drums chugging back toward the station – “Way way down/Way way down/Way way down that lonesome road/Bac bac train/Bac bac train will take you home again.”
“That’s a traditional blues thing that Cody and I used to cover in a lot of renditions of the band. A lot of this record is getting stuff we’ve done down the way we wanted to have it,” said Deitke, who formed the band with Crose in 2010 and added Boland to the lineup three years ago.
Deitke, Crose and Boland also shine on the album’s melodic third track, “Wherever I Go,” which weaves tremolo guitars with delicate cymbal taps and pulsating drums into a heartfelt ode reminiscent of the John Butler Trio – “Leave a mark they can’t remove/Streets wear through souls and wear through shoes/Breathe in cold air/Exhale, find a trace of her there/Wherever I go, I hope you are there/And wherever I go, I hope you are there.”
Another sultry track includes the funky reggae-inspired “For Some Account” with island-like guitars and deep, relaxing bass to transport listeners to a tropical getaway. A chorus of “oohs” beautifully backs this six-minute mental escape – “Know these words you speak are true/Cuz everything I see I like in you/Don’t turn it inside out/And leave me with no room to doubt/I know/For some account I know.”
Along with his bandmates, Deitke spent several months recording the nine tracks for “Burn Your Own Gasoline” at RCR Recording Studios in Solon, Ohio. Boland and Crose tracked drums and bass while Deitke recorded and tweaked the guitars and vocals separately during weekly studio sessions. These studio sessions allowed C-Level to transform longtime stage favorites into polished recorded versions.
“I’ve had a lot of these songs, and I heard them a certain way, and I wanted to get them recorded and put down in a certain way. Songs like, ‘Easy For’ and ‘Wherever I Go,’ Cody and I have played for a long time, but just because of the configuration of who was playing with us, they never felt right. We finally get those done in a way I’ve always heard them,” said Deitke, who’s inspired by B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix.
C-Level also teamed up with Mimi Arden’s vocalist and guitarist Michelle Gaw for a groovy folk-rock cover of Devendra Banhardt’s track, “Lover,” from the 2008 rom com-drama “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist.” The cover blends fuzzy guitars and steady drums and bongos with lush harmonies from Deitke and Gaw – “Well, I-I, I wanna be your man/I wanna make you understand/Because it works for you/Well I-I, I wanna be your cup/So I can fill you up/Because it works for you.”
“I ended up learning it for an ex-girlfriend, but I learned it all wrong, so it just became its own thing we would play a lot when Michelle Gall and I went on a tour to New York,” Deitke said. “We did four days and played seven shows, and she would sing that with me every night that we played, so it made sense to record it.”
In addition to the album’s striking nine tracks, “Burn Your Own Gasoline’s” cover art tells a captivating story. Created by Cleveland-based artist and owner of the Negative Space nonprofit art gallery, Gadi Zamir, “Shooting Words” reflects an Israeli man’s desire to pursue music instead of military duty.
“His whole motive was that he wanted to fight with his own means, which was making music. That’s why the album cover has a guy playing guitar and at the end of the guitar is a gun. The painting also has are all these words – ‘hope,’ ‘love’ and ‘inspiration’ – written on it,” Deitke said.
Zamir also will join a host of musical guests and visual artists during C-Level’s “Burn Your Own Gasoline” album release show tonight at Negative Space. The show will feature Lea Marra of Lea Marra and the Dream Catchers, Green Soul City Machine, Braxton Taylor of Sam Fox, Rubix Groove, Mike Miller of Vibe and Direct, and Charlie Wilson of Wanyama and Uncle Gnarly. Visual artists also will include Tessa Lebron and Nichole Whitney as well as live painting by Justin Roberts.
“We’re going to do everything off it, and we’ve been playing a lot of those songs, and that’s become our sound for this record for the last few years we’ve been playing with Pat,” Deitke said. “We’re going to do some songs off the last one, and we’re going to have a couple of new songs we haven’t put out yet. We’re also including a lot of people who really inspired us along the way, and we wanted to share a night with them.”
After tonight’s release show, C-Level will tour the Midwest and East Coast, including a March 8 show at Arlene’s Grocery in New York City. The band also will record new material for their next project and collaborate with other Cleveland-based artists.
“We already have eight songs ready to go for a concept record of 12 songs. I’m all gung-ho, I’m a little manic, and I need something to do. I need to go in and track these songs and be done with them. We also have a lot of people sitting in with us, and we want to do some split singles with other bands,” Deitke said.