Jennifer and I begin 2017 with a year old daughter growing up strong and loved, a forthcoming move to the small-ish/big-ish city of Wilmington this spring, and more creative energy than we’ve known before. Times of plenty. Times of contentment. Times of blessing. It’s not always like this, but the command to “rejoice in hope, give thanks in all circumstances, be constant in prayer” is our straight-as-an-arrow directive in all seasons. God, make us capable of this.
On my end, I’m writing and playing more frequently as Levi Dylan & The Former Ruins. Here are links, should you seek them, to music/social media pages:
Bandcamp | formerruins.bandcamp.com
Noisetrade | noisetrade.com/formerruins
Facebook | fb.com/formerruins
In this more informal setting, I thought I’d share my working bio, if that’s a fitting description. It’s a snapshot, a journal entry, a monument stone. May it edify yeh.
Levi Dylan & The Former Ruins writes folk rock from northern Delaware. The best explanation for what we’re about is an account of where we come from, which is nowhere special. But like all places, it’s entirely significant for the story of life and death always being written by it and about it.
Growing up, I would ask my father (a literary man) what a certain book, song, or film was “about.” If it were a good one, he’d concisely reply, “Life. Death. Sin and redemption. Like all good art.” He raised me on Bob Dylan (my namesake), U2, and an overlooked Americana artist named Bill Mallonee (of Vigilantes of Love). He would note that Dylan couldn’t (perhaps willfully) sing well by pop music standards, but Dylan possessed something far more essential and rare—a lyrical, prophetic imagination that revealed truth in its plainclothes and its more complex dress. We kids didn’t understand any of his songs (except for some gospel-era material), but I at least observed that something should matter in music more than a pretty voice. This was a gap in the wall that led me to discover artists that mattered for reasons other than merely what the eyes see or ears hear.
The Joshua Tree by U2 was the nearest thing to a family mantle piece as we could have owned. It was a center of gravity for us kids, even when we were tuning in to much lesser music. It pulled us back to something historical and transcendental, to a time and place before us and beyond us. We knew our Mom and Dad spun side 1 continually the year before my oldest sister was born. It marked the first year of my dad’s lifelong vocation as a teacher. It was beautiful rock music, and we all hoped that “Where the Streets Have No Name” was an indication of what music in Heaven might sound like. U2 made such direct professions and heartfelt profusions that they offended cynicism and produced a sense of music as magic, as a transporting medium into a place of big dreaming and soul searching. U2 permitted me to sing my heart out, though it still sometimes feels extravagant. But our small capacity for such things is no fault but ours.
Bill Mallonee admitted himself into art therapy with every song he penned (still does up to the present day), and his unadorned Americana became our family hymnal of a sort. Haunted by doubt and Heaven’s Hound, Mallonee sang my sisters and me to sleep at night during late night drives back home from out of state. He kept my father awake at the wheel and awake for us all. Bill’s music is deeper in my bones than even I perhaps know.
I hope the songs I offer can stand by your side and shed a little light in the coming years.
Levi Dylan Sikes, February 2017