Giving up his day job in a Jewish Cemetery was probably the wisest choice Brooklyn based song writerJames Levy made last year. His new offering released through Heavenly Recordings [with stunning vocals from The Pierces Allison Pierce] is an album of haunting yet strangely up beat songs, at least, when you don’t expect it. Granted the opening track 'Sneak into My Room' does sound familiar to The National, if only for his voice alone. However as the record progresses, it becomes a deeply enjoyable, unique experience.

Although Levy’s songs do tend to focus on death, and in particular the death of relationships, when mixed with the almost country inspired music of 'Hung To Dry' or the gun slinging back ground beats of 'Keep My Baby' you can’t help but smile. If you aren’t a country fan, don’t let this put you off, there is something on the album for everyone. 'Precious Age of 13' is half sung in Hebrew, with a passage that is taken from his own bar mitzvah.

The title track of Pray To Be Free really showcases just how beautifully James and Allison’s vocals combine, and compliment each other. Allison’s vocals take the album at times to a whole other level. As James himself has said of the album - "The new songs came alive for me when I performed them with Allison. These songs were meant to be sung as duets. There is a beautiful, knowing quality to Allison’s voice. She understands where the songs come from." I couldn’t have said it better myself. 'Bums In Love' is an unexpected treat on the album, and probably the only time a beautiful ballad will carry a title like that. It is deeper than you may think.

This album is a wonderful mix of old and new influences, and with the slightly brooding Nick Cave like vibe to it, it really is a smorgasbord of wonderful music. Produced by Guy Berryman of Coldplay fame, this is about as far away from commercial as you can get. This is an album that grows on you, slowly but surely, and it’s complexity unfurls more, every time you listen to it. This is a gem of an album in an all too increasingly complacent musical arena.