Saturday, May 9, 2015

Saun & Starr - Look Closer


2015 – Daptone Records
By Phillip Smith; May 9, 2015

If you’ve listened to the music of Sharon Jones, you most likely have heard Saun & Starr.  Last year, I was fortunate enough to catch Jones in concert, and remember being bowled over by the exquisite harmonies of backing vocalists, Saundra Williams and Starr Duncan- Lowe , aka Saun & Starr.   They made quite the impression then, and they make a tremendous impression now with their stellar performances on their debut album, Look Closer. To top it all off, the Dap-Kings perform on this new record, drizzling their familiar funky soul on every song, in the Daptone style, and I love it. 

Title track, “Look Closer (Can’t You See the Signs?) ushers the listener in with an up-beat dance-friendly rhythm guided by a buttery bassline served up by Bosco Mann. When I hear the bouncy beats and soulful vocals on “Hot Shot”, I’m immediately taken back to the early music of the Jackson 5.  I just love the way this song was written and performed.  Whereas “Another Love Like Mine”, with is restless funk and echo-laced guitar effects, seems to draw in a little more inspiration from the late great Isaac Hayes.    

Every time I hear the infectious grooves of “Big Wheel”, I can’t help but get a big ol’ smile on my face.  Like Jean Knight’s “Mr. Big Stuff”, this track takes a soulful approach to calling out tricksters and scoundrels in wolves clothing.  Another fun little track, “Dear Mr. Teddy”, happens to take awkward situations to a new level. This is the kind of song that sounds best on a rainy day.  Saun & Starr close the album out with a light-hearted ditty about communication breakdown, “Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah”. I like the cool little jabs Victor Axelrod lays down on the organ and the Steve Cropper-flavored guitar riffs from Binky Griptite.  This is such a smooth song.

Look Closer is a sheer delight.  It’s the best soul album I've heard this year.