A diamond in the rough is hard to find, but with time, effort, and enough polish, you’ll have a one that’s a good looker. Some stones are market ready with minor tweaks. Others take time, even decades. Saun and Starr are one such pair of diamonds in the rough. If you listen to Look Closer from Daptone Records, you’ll understand the analogy.
Standing just a few feet behind Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Saundra Williams and Starr Duncan Lowe have been the duo in the trio that is one of Daptone’s best-selling artists. New York natives from the Bronx, they share a mutual respect for each other and while Sharon has been long in the spotlight, it’s now time for the duo to release original material that explores the myth behind the vocalists who share the same space as the lead, but can shine on their own nonetheless.
Experimenting with their voices was head honcho of Daptone Records, Gabe Roth’s idea. Penned as a trial single to test the waters for the yet-to-be-exposed singers, Look Closer embodies the very essence of Daptone’s stars and does the Dapettes justice fleshing their soulful harmonies. The harmonies are an oft repeated vocal trick in various measures on tracks like Sunshine or Gonna Make Time, but since it’s the duo’s long awaited debut it doesn’t feel like one they need to keep pulling out of the bag all the time.
Listening to Saun and Starr sing feels familiar, but the lack of ferocity and the commanding presence from Daptone’s finest isn’t even an issue. These women make the album sound effortless and make up for the heaviness the big-wigs pull out on their records.
Saun and Starr shine on most tracks in the latter half of the album, but give the others at Daptone their props by letting them shine just as bright as them too. On tracks like Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah and In The Night, new brass bands debut instrumentations that touch the soul, letting the women do their job, a balance that is very consistent all throughout the album.