Dawn Derow & Sean Harkness

Music 4 Two

Expressive singer/guitarist Dawn Derow teams with guitarist Sean Harkness on an eclectic selection of songs on this “live” album, Music 4 Two. Most selections on this story-song disc are performed with good musical phrasing and a deft commitment to the lyric. Albeit, somewhat heavy-themed, most songs also have a decided folk-style flavor that recalls earlier decades. Together, the Derow-Harkness musical symmetry is subtle and warm throughout. Her clear mezzo displays many lovely colors. The combination of voice and guitar(s) lends a melancholic tone that is engaging. Harkness, an epic musician, harmonizes well on several cuts.

With echoes of Judy Collins and Joan Baez in her delivery, Derow is a full-voiced singer with clarion tones and sensibilities. A balladeer treatment of “This Masquerade” is a highlight. The arrangement suits her style, which is often compelling on a song usually performed as a moody, R&B number. The usually gritty “Ain't Misbehavin’” is given a sexy treatment with a breathy delivery. The sex button is pushed even stronger on “Long Gone.” “Come On Home” is a well-crafted, well-delivered ballad. The familiar “Drift Away” is sung with a flowery gusto that hits with equal force. She shows snippets of other influences on the disc. But overall, Derow is a solid vocalist at her best utilizing her gentle, personalized style which, in today’s world of convoluted vocals, is quite effective (and refreshing). While many of her peers are entrenched in the latest cabaret trends, Derow goes for the trenchant heart, especially on victim/dependent songs like “I'll Be Waiting” (“... I'll be waiting for you/when you're ready to love me again”). The results are in her favor and works for her brand of emoting. Derow evokes a crystalline quality as well as a controlled modulation that brings a certain purity to this mixed bag of story-songs.

As far as the genre of cabaret is concerned, this is not a landmark disc. That said, Derow stands a good chance caressing alternate outlets for her talents. But her folk music influences cannot be ignored. In that faculty, she is a standout—with subtle musical cousin Sean Harkness by her side.

John Hoglund
Cabaret Scenes
June 1, 2013