The Lied To's | The Lesser of Two Evils

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The Lesser of Two Evils

by The Lied To's

While songs from their 2015 self-titled debut emerged from the emotional turmoil of divorce and its immediate aftermath, the new record both reflects on those events and explores the even more treacherous terrain of what comes next.
Genre: Rock: Americana
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Cruel World
3:31 $0.99
2. Millionaire
4:39 $0.99
3. The Lesser of Two Evils
3:11 $0.99
4. Buffalo
4:44 $0.99
5. One String
3:29 $0.99
6. Wishing
2:41 $0.99
7. What Keeps Us in This World?
5:03 $0.99
8. Lay Down
3:21 $0.99
9. Windtalker
4:54 $0.99
10. Diamond Rain
5:23 $0.99
11. Deportee
4:47 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
On his very last record, Leonard Cohen utters the words, “You Want It Darker.” The Lied To's can relate.

The duo, Susan Levine and Doug Kwartler, who are set to release their new record The Lesser of Two Evils on May 11, 2018, have reason to connect with Cohen's sentiment. Both weathered bitter divorces and were left to pick up the physical, financial and emotional pieces. They met at a folk festival and after the dust settled, started working together. Soon a musical partnership evolved into a personal one.

Both Kwartler and Levine are single parents to two kids each. While juggling family life, music, and their relationship can fuel inspiration for songwriting, it can also be a struggle. “Like everyone else is feeling right now, except maybe the 1%, you just go about your day looking straight ahead trying to get things done,” Kwartler says, adding, “You work, pay bills, take care of your kids, have a relationship, and deal with your past…oh, and we also try to make music. The new record covers all that.” Levine continues, “While the songs are not purely autobiographical, the emotional truths definitely come from everything we've been through.”

Despite the challenges, The Lied To's have made solid headway as an Americana duo in a very crowded Americana duo scene. Their 2015, self-titled debut album made waves in Americana and Folk radio and rose to #3 on the roots music charts. They landed in the top 100 on the prestigious No Depression readers’ poll and they were called, “…one of the finest contemporary guy/gal duos on the scene today,” by Boston’s Metronome Magazine, who also picked their CD as a top 20 of the year. Add in successful shows at the legendary Bluebird Café in Nashville, the renowned Club Passim in Cambridge, MA and many top folk-coffeehouses in the area, and The Lied To’s forged their own way and made a name for themselves

The duo now return with their sophomore album and while songs from their 2015 self-titled debut emerged from the emotional turmoil of divorce and its immediate aftermath, the new record both reflects on those events and explores the even more treacherous terrain of what comes next.

Starting off The Lesser of Two Evils,” is the biting, “Cruel World,” a full-fledged “F-U” to life and its misfortunes. The song, written by Doug Kwartler, the duo’s slightly more skeptical member, is more than just angry in its lyrics; it’s downright ornery. Musically it borrows from country music’s original angry songwriter, Johnny Cash. Kwartler and Levine spit out lines together like “Now I’m staring out the window to see what’s coming next, popping pills to ease my troubles, then go dealin’ with my ex” in a raw blues harmony that sounds like a 3-minute fiery exorcism.

Levine’s beautiful “Millionaire” follows. Here, the character has as much reason to be angry as the one in “Cruel World,” yet instead, appears to simply tell her story. But Levine, an award-winning songwriter, can spin and sing a seemingly plain-spoken tale rife with meaning and emotion just below the surface, recalling the best of Patty Griffin and Lori McKenna.

The album’s title track, “The Lesser of Two Evils,” follows. With lines like, “Sometimes you spend your life with all the wrong people,” and “Somedays it’s just time, sometimes it’s just days,” the song offers a cautionary story about being caught between the apparent comforts of home and another more fulfilling life that might be waiting just outside the door. “It’s sort of a folk-rock version of ‘Once In A Lifetime,’” Kwartler says, referring to the Talking Heads iconic song about getting everything you thought you wanted. With lyrics like “You can pass away the night getting out of each other’s way,” you could easily hear David Byrne asking, “My God! What have I done?”

And just as those questions start to fade, the gentle electric guitar arpeggios of Levine’s “Buffalo” start to ring. Inspired by a family trip to Niagara Falls, Margaret Atwood's post-apocalyptic novel The Handmaid's Tale and the current political climate, Levine looks at the family as refugee, choosing to escape the past without knowing what the future has in store. Other songs like Kwartler’s “One String,” which cleverly name drops Keith Richards, reflect on being born with a space “torn” from your heart.

In Levine’s “Wishing,” the most musically up-tempo and playful of all the tunes, the character hangs her heart on an M.I.A. lover, but in keeping with the themes of the record, struggles with her choices, admitting "The devil I know beats the devil I don't..." but ends on a more defiant, "Gonna wish on me, instead of wishing on you."

“What Keeps Us In This World?,” could be a response to Springsteen’s “Reason To Believe.” Springsteen once said, “Sometimes people need something to believe in so bad that they'll believe in anything that comes along," Kwartler’s song questions that notion with lines like “What stranger comes to claim the years, The hurricane that floods the tracks, The final straw that breaks your back." Perhaps the most haunting of the collection, the song starts with a solemn banjo riff that soon becomes a hypnotic dirge.

“Lay Down,” the most sparse tune on the record, has Levine solo at the piano, with Doug's atmospheric and plaintive guitar entering halfway through. It is a gentle plea for connection, to take a breath, and just be, even if it's only for a moment. “In the broken light of the this fading day,” Susan sings, “I am letting go, asking you to stay.”

Kwartler’s "Windtalker" could easily have been called, “I Am Not Made For This World,” which would have made 3 songs of his with the word “World” in their title. By the end of the record, it becomes clear that Kwartler is focused on the world and how he and others fit into it or don’t. “Windtalker” continues on those themes with lines like, “Every road I have retraced, every punch that I’ve embraced.”

Levine's “Diamond Rain” perfectly closes the record by turning the adage “strong in the broken places” on its head. The broken places may (or may not) be strong, but the broken pieces themselves are beautiful. They are what make us human and what connect us to one another. “You keep that piece of me you can hold onto. And I'll keep that piece of you that makes me feel strong.” People often call Susan's songs “sad but hopeful,” and Diamond Rain is no exception. But the hope comes from acceptance and seeing the beauty in and through the darkness. Or, as Leonard Cohen would say, “There's a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.”

The Lied To's include a bonus track, a cover of Woody Guthrie's “Deportee.” “Given the times we are living in,” says Kwartler, “we felt it was important to include this song on this cd.” Deportee was recorded in Susan's living room on a snowy December day, live with Doug on guitar and Susan on ukulele, and the two felt that the raw simplicity of the recording underscored the power of Guthrie's material.

Though the new record, like their debut, is divided up equally with songs from Levine and Kwartler, The Lesser of Two Evils has an expansive, collaborative feel, even more so than their self-titled debut. The album was once again produced by Kwartler and recorded at his Hollow Body Studios in Chelmsford, MA. Using some of the finest vintage microphones and pre-amps available, the album sounds warm and welcoming. But listener beware, with these songs and their now trademark harmonies, the The Lied To’s might just welcome you in and break your heart.


The Lied To's are Susan Levine and Doug Kwartler, two Massachusetts-based singer-songwriters who joined musical forces in 2014, released their self-titled debut cd at the legendary Club Passim in February 2015, and have been playing together ever since.

Taking their name from the revered Everly Brothers song, "When Will I Be Loved," The Lied To's (Susan Levine and Doug Kwartler) collaborate to put the challenges of relationships squarely under their musical microscope with a formidable blend of folk, rock and country-tinged music.

Susan has been a finalist at the Kerrville Folk Festival, the Rocky Mountain Folks Fest, and the International Songwriting Competition, among others. She also was a Tri-Centric Showcase artist at the 2008 Northeast Regional Folk Alliance Conference (NERFA). Columnist, Joel Brown, in an article for The Boston Globe noted that Susan has "Some of the wistful knowledge of Dolly Parton at her best."

Doug has had his songs placed on television shows, including CSI , All My Children, The Young and The Restless, Dark Blue, and was an emerging artist at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. Nick Noble, host of the "The Folk Revival" (WICN, Worcester, MA ) states, "Doug Kwartler brings to the 21st century the passion and perception of the great 20th century folk singers like Woody Guthrie and early Bob Dylan." Doug is also a respected music producer who owns and runs Hollow Body Recording Studios in Chelmsford, MA.

Praise for The Lied To's:

​Singer-songwriter-guitarist Susan Levine and singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist Doug Kwartler have teamed up to create one of the finest contemporary guy/gal duos on the scene today. - Metronome Magazine

Susan Levine has a voice somewhere between Dolly Parton and Maria Muldaur – it carries an edgy passion with a wailing “want my man” quality.

The Doug Kwartler has one of those John Mellencamp-ish, longing, honky-tonk voices that make women weak in the knees. - The Noise

"...lyrically and musically a gentle masterpiece..." - Americana UK



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