Far From Kansas

Far From Kansas


Alt.country inflected indie rock with echoes of Bright Eyes, Wilco, and Death Cab. Likely to make you cry in your beer and dance the night away, all at the same show. Kind of like Ryan Adams, but without the pretense and the drunken falls offstage.


Rumor has it that FAR FROM KANSAS front man, J.D. LEVIN, is a distant cousin of the WALLFLOWERS' famous lead singer, JAKOB DYLAN. In addition, it's also been suggested that Levin is related to Jacob's slightly more famous father, BOB (if only by marriage). While these rumors have yet to be confirmed, and numerous calls placed to both Dylans' publicists have yet to be returned, one thing is certain: J.D. Levin's musical genealogy is just as rich as his near-mythic biological one.

From his early days, haunting ARMY OF FRESHMEN shows at the old Teltron Café in Ventura, California, J.D. Levin has built his reputation on one unfailing principal: always begin with a well crafted song. Combining his love of '60s and '70s singer-songwriters such as DYLAN, YOUNG, and SPRINGSTEEN, with an affinity for modern day songwriting savants such as ELLIOTT SMITH, CONOR OBERST and RYAN ADAMS, Levin's songs seem to exist somewhere between the classic rock he grew up on and the rock and roll played by his friends and peers. In fact, something about J.D. Levin's song-craft gives you the feeling that these songs have existed all along--in a jukebox at some diner along old Route 66, halfway between Oklahoma and nowhere, waiting to be played--waiting for you to drop that quarter in and press B-52. In one of Levin's earliest recorded tracks for SFS Records, "Song for Bobby Dylan" we can hear echoes of WOODY GUTHRIE and Dylan himself. Likewise, the rare, unreleased track, "(I Don't Wanna Be) Your Man" could very well be a HANK WILLIAMS b-side. On the other side of the coin, since Levin picked up a Fender Stratocaster and took up with the kids in Far From Kansas (MATT LEVIN [bass], CHRIS DIXON [guitars, vocals], and FRANK CRUZ [Hammond organ, Wurlitzer, piano, accordion, glockenspiel, banjo]) he's also been crafting electric driven power-pop and indie rock tunes with much the same tenacity and precision as witnessed on his earlier recordings, though sacrificing none of his literate sensibilities.

Far From Kansas formed in 2002 when J.D. Levin and his brother, Matt, teamed up with original drummer DANIEL MCDERMOTT and keyboardist DIANA ESSEX in a garage near the 126 freeway in Ventura. A slew of local shows and the SFS Records release, CHANGE FOR THE BETTER (2004), soon followed. When Daniel and Diana departed to attend college, Dixon was added to beef up the band's guitar sound, and Cruz joined on as the band's new keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist. With these dramatic changes in the line-up the tried and true J.D. Levin formula had changed. While still literate and well crafted, these songs were now real, live rock and roll tunes. If the old J.D. Levin songs curled up next to you and whispered in your ear, then some of the Far From Kansas tracks were just as likely to get out of bed and kick you in the ass. The major difference between a song written by the man who truly is "Ventura's answer to Ryan Adams" and other, more recent band wagon converts to the genre is that Levin's songs, while kicking you in the ass, are still just as likely to evoke the ghosts of Springsteen, STEINBECK, SAM COOKE, and Hank Williams, sometimes literally, sometimes simultaneously. But whether they're kicking you in the ass, or whispering in your ear, J.D. Levin and Far From Kansas are always compelling and always ready on the juke box. All you have to do is let your quarter drop.



Written By: Joel David Levin

I scraped my windshield with a credit card last night
‘Cuz that’s all it’s good for now
The city’s darker than these neon lights
And colder than the snow that hits the ground

Spin the wheel, let it ride again
And let the chips fall as they may
Bet on red, break at twenty-one
As black night looses out to day

And when the sun rises over Barstow tonight
You know I’ll be half way home
So come on, Julianna, break my heart tonight
‘Cuz I don’t wanna sleep alone

I draw my hands along the sand dunes of your back
As my wheels cross every mile
Even needles that pierce me through my skin
Can’t break the concrete of your smile


I’ve been driving all night since the last glimpse of sun
And now all these headlights are bleeding into one
I’ve got too many miles left before I can fall asleep
But I can’t stop ‘cuz I’ve got promises to keep
Promises to keep…


© 2006 Far From Kansas Music (ASCAP). All Rights Reserved. Lyrics Reprinted by Permission.

Torn Photographs

Written By: Joel David Levin

Memories are snapshots that never go away
They haunt us and devour us by day
But we're masochists, we dwell in them, & we fester in their wake
We live like scars that wounds cannot shake

And I'm drowning in the memory of your deep blue eyes
Your smile is a knife in my chest
You stab me every time I see your face
But I will still bleed for you on request

'Cuz all I ever wanted was to be here with you

But there's nothing… nothing I can do…

I keep changing like the pattern of a fire
& I'm burning myself down to the core
But these cinders that keep driving me in a self-destructive irony
Are leaving me smoky and impure

But I'm needing you, I'm breathing you & I'll just keep deceiving you
'Cuz you won't let me tell you how I feel
You just turn your face away now, & every single day somehow
You trap me like a priest caught in his kneel

'Cuz all I ever wanted was to be alone with you

But there's nothing… nothing I can do…

We live our lives
As torn photographs now
So how can I
Fall out of love with you?

But there's nothing… nothing I can do…

© 2006 Far From Kansas Music (ASCAP). All Rights Reserved. Lyrics Reprinted by Permission.

Steinbeck's America

Written By: Joel David Levin

It was me and Frank cruising out past the fields
On the two-lane gravel in our beast of steel
Roaring like the engine of a ‘79 ‘Stang
We drove with our windshield painted with rain

Eyes on the horizon and girls on our minds
Flying on by those speed limit signs
Our lives are forgotten out here on the road
On the highways of dust away from the world

‘Cuz this is Steinbeck’s America
And these are fields of broken dreams
This is a shattered America
And we live a chorus of silent screams

We look around us at the back roads and feel
The silent longing of the ghosts in the fields
The children of promise, torn from the soil
Their tired hands stained black as oil

Forced to dig and plant with their fists
And among the echoes of the harvesting winds
They reach to the heavens and pray with a kiss
For a chance and a hope to begin again


So I turned to Frank when we reached the end
And he said, “This is only the beginning, my friend…
This is a heartbreaking world, and we’ve got a duty to tell…”


© 2006 Far From Kansas Music (ASCAP). All Rights Reserved. Lyrics Reprinted by Permission.


The Ghost Inside of You [CD]. SFS Records: 2006.

The Blood & Rust EP. SFS Records: 2006.

"On a Wire" and "Positives & Negatives" released on Summer Sampler 2005 [EP]. SFS Records: 2005.

Sophomore Year [EP]. SFS Records: 2004.

Change for the Better [CD]. SFS Records: 2004.

Lo Fi Angels [CD]. SFS Records: 2001. [J.D. Levin's debut solo LP.]

Set List

FFK @ The Livery Theater
May 7, 2006

On a Wire
Steinbeck's America
Placerville, CA
Positives & Negatives
Cheshire Cat>District Sleeps Alone Tonight (Postal Service)
The Ghost Inside of You
Sophomore Year

Average Set Length: 45 to 60 minutes

Covers Include: Having a Party (Sam Cooke), Free Fallin' (Tom Petty), Thirteen (Big Star), Lovesick Blues (Hank Williams), Down by the River (Neil Young), Your Dog (The Stooges/Uncle Tupelo)