Doug Levitt
Photo: Patrick Fraser / Missing Piece Group

Doug Levitt Rides the Bus to the ‘Edge of Everywhere’

Doug Levitt is a journalist with a guitar, and Edge of Everywhere tells the tales of his 12 years and 120,000 miles riding the Greyhound bus all over America.

Edge of Everywhere
Doug Levitt
12 May 2023

Doug Levitt has spent 12 years and 120,000 miles riding the Greyhound bus all over America. He has met with his fellow passengers and heard their personal stories. He’s turned a dozen of their tales into songs for Edge of Everywhere. The common theme Levitt discovered is incorporated into the album’s title. None of us are at home, but we are all almost there. We live on the edge no matter where we are. We are everywhere, but as Neil Young has noted, everyone knows this is nowhere.

So what does it all mean? Levitt gets no closer to the truth than anyone he has encountered. We live in a kind of purgatory, awaiting an answer to the existential question about the meaning of life. Some have found some peace, but most people believe it is somewhere down the road. Maybe they are only fooling themselves. Levitt does not judge.

Consider the protagonist of “Turning Myself In”. The reformed offender is on his way to prison, searching for redemption after a life of crime. He once earned big money doing nasty deeds for a drug lord. Now, he has found redemption with the Lord after finding love and a good woman. Levitt sings the story in a gentle voice with quiet guitar accompaniment. It’s a nice tale if one doesn’t think about it too much. Levitt’s retelling suggests salvation comes next. However, living in a federal penitentiary doesn’t make one better. The hurt one does to others does not disappear just because one is sorry. Levitt’s position is not to pass judgment. He just tells us his passengers’ tales.

Levitt is a journalist with a guitar. He’s had a career as a reporter for ABC, CNN, and the impetus for these songs come from his mission riding the Greyhound for the BBC. Ironically, several of the best songs on Edge of Everywhere address the notion of finding a home, whether it’s where one originally came from or a new place to which one is headed. “Back in Okemeh” is a piano ballad that captures the pleasant resignation of accepting one’s ties to the past. The gospel-tinged “Born in West Virginia” notes that leaving is often necessary to find oneself. Both tracks share an emotional core as their central characters look inside themselves to see who they are.

The music purposely captures the rhythms of the road. Trina Shoemaker (Brandi Carlile, Sheryl Crow, Josh Ritter) produced Edge of Everywhere and keeps things moving even when subdued. Dramatic cuts about the accidental death of a child (“Run It Back”) or environmental disasters (“Disaster Can Wait”) are toned down. This gives the material a quiet dignity. The overall sound suggests one is going somewhere even when one doesn’t know where.

Or, as alluded to earlier, when one is currently nowhere. The characters are all headed somewhere. The wheels of the bus keep on turning. But that doesn’t mean the characters understand where they are going. Levitt’s been riding the Greyhound with them. In interviews with the singer-songwriter, he said that the defining moment in his life happened when he was 16 and he found his father dead by suicide.

Making music became his therapy and way to communicate. Levitt doesn’t sing about that directly, but in a song like “They Killed Buddy Gray”, the songwriter addresses how a death of a loved one in the past continues to haunt the living. Just by living, we all are hanging on the edge. That doesn’t mean we are all in the same place. This is no Levittown, where the houses are all identical. It’s Levitt’s America, where we all share the same roads even when our destinations are different.

RATING 8 / 10