It’s the kind of success story that seems so improbable that if it were a Hollywood movie, nobody would believe it. A couple of musicians get together shortly before a big competition, rehearse a couple of times, win the competition and go on to the big international finals where they place second. Yeah, that pretty much only happens in fiction.
Trouble is, it also happened to the duo of Dalannah and Owen, and they have parlayed that success into a quiet and thoughtful first album that plays into their strength of gospel (Dalannah) and jazz (Owen). There are no pyrotechnics, just an incredible voice and a seven-string bass and two artists with many years of technique behind them.
Dalannah Gail Bowen has a voice that should be declared a national treasure in her native country of Canada. It’s the voice of experience; the kind of voice that can soar to heaven after having explored the depths of hell. It’s the real deal the way so many singers dream of being, but so very few ever achieve.
I could listen to this voice for the rest of my life and still not peel away all the layers.
Owen Veber must have been born with an extra-soul chromosome in his DNA, the way he just effortlessly makes his bass guitar sing. In his capable hands, the bass steps out of the background and takes center stage and provides beautiful counterpoint to Bowen’s vocals.
The album, BEEN AROUND A WHILE, released on Quest Records, features five self-penned numbers and others written by the likes of Billy Eckstine, Marvin Gaye, Robert Johnson, B.B. King, and Son House. Pretty good company.
The album starts off with the title track. Been Around A While is their story, but also the story of those folks who have dedicated their life to pursuing a dream and are now realizing it, and appreciating it even more for the journey.
A nice bass run kicks off the next song, Early In The Morning. It’s one of those days after a fight when you wake up with the blues and what can you do but play it all over again and again.
The jazz tinged That Ain’t It is a great smoky song that would be right at home in a dark nightclub with a blue spotlight. It’s one of those songs that grabs you with its quiet approach that makes you listen closely.
The Billy Eckstine/Sid Kuller number, Blues Mother of Sin, is adapted by the duo where it becomes a powerful blues tune. For those who once railed that the blues is “the devil’s music” would feel right at home with the sentiments this song shares. If it’s the blues that led us all astray, then I say Thank God for the Blues!
The next couple of numbers, Already Gone and Queen Bee are originals by the duo. Already Gone is an up-tempo song of a woman who has finally become fed up with her man and is telling him you don’t have to worry about leaving, because she’s “already gone.” Queen Bee is the story of a woman who knows what she wants and she know how she’s going to get it. It’s a song of empowerment and taking control of her life. The two songs together make a strong statement that people would be smart to heed.
Marvin Gaye and James Nyx’s Inner City Blues gets a new interpretation that lands squarely in the jazz-blues field. From the opening ghostly echoes of the opening, the spirit of Gaye’s song is there but this interpretation will make you really sit up and listen to the message. It stays with you for a long time.
The last original number on the album is Heaven’s Right Here, a meditation on the fact that we are living in our own heaven right here on earth. It’s the blues with a twist – looking at our lives and thinking that maybe, just maybe, we can make the most of the chance we’ve been given.
Robert Johnson’s Come On In My Kitchen gets a new interpretation by the duo. Bowen’s voice aches while Veber’s quiet guitar work strips the song down to its barest essentials. It’s haunting, and gets into your soul and on a dark night, just might give you a little chill.
Why I Sing The Blues picks up the pace just a bit while maintaining their overarching control. Veber drives the song and Bowen’s vocals soar and belt out the lyrics. Veber takes a nice break but doesn’t overpower the song.
Son House’s Walkin’ Blues closes out the album perfectly. Bowen sings like her soul is on fire and you can’t help but fall under her spell. This is one of the best interpretations of this classic that I have ever heard.
I admit that I made a big mistake not including this album on my Best of 2015 Show on Time For The Blues. It’s simply because BEEN AROUND A WHILE got buried behind some other CDs and I didn’t get around to listening to it sooner. Let me assure you, I’ll be singing its praises along with the praises of its creators for some time to come.
Dalannah and Owen are performers I would love to see anytime, anywhere – I am attracted to their quiet power and total dedication to their art. If you get a chance to check them out, be sure to tell them The Professor sent ya! And send me your thoughts afterwards.
You can find out all things related to the duo at www.dalannahandowen.com
Until next time, aloha from the Juke Joint.
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