Dawn Tyler Watson – Jawbreaker!
Self-Release – 2016
13 tracks; 58 minutes
Montreal’s Dawn Tyler Watson has been singing for some twenty years but really came to the attention of audiences outside Canada when she won the IBCs in 2017. Jawbreaker! is Dawn’s fourth album and displays her wide range to advantage, from gospel to rock with touches of soul and jazz thrown in along the way. Dawn wrote most of the album and there are three covers. Backing Dawn here are Ben Racine on guitar and vocals, John Sadowy on keys, François Dube on bass, Nicky Estor on drums, ‘Little Frankie’ Thiffault on tenor sax and Mathieu ‘Moose’ Mousseau on baritone sax; guests include Paul Deslauriers on guitar, Guy Belanger on harp, Patrick Lehman on vocals, Richard Irwin on drums, Morgan Moore on upright bass, Rob Macdonald on acoustic guitar, Dimitri Lebel-Alexandre on pedal steel, Ron Dilauro on trumpet and Charles Pappasoff on baritone sax.
Jeanne Peterson and Steve Cirkvencic’s “Can’t Nobody” kicks things off with Dawn’s gospel-tinged vocals over the twin guitar attack of Ben and Paul before “Shine” makes the gospel connection even clearer as Dawn implores the listeners to “shine on, to the spirit we belong and though the road is dark and long your light will conquer and you will shine on”. With churchy organ we have a real gospel tune here, especially in the coda in which Patrick’s shared vocals and the ever-increasing pace sounds like the fervour of a revival meeting. Guitarist Ben shares the vocals on his co-write “Just A Little Bit More” as Dawn confesses that she needs “a little of your loving, a little of your rubbing” in a fine soul ballad complete with gentle horns and piano before Dawn rocks out impressively on “Son Of A Gun” with exciting rock and roll piano and guitar. Mellow double bass tones open the stripped back “Tootsie Roll Blues” as Dawn sings the salacious lyrics with relish, aided and abetted by Guy’s harp, the rest of the band only joining in at the two minute mark to add to the smoky jazz club feel here.
“I Don’t Love Here Anymore” is a standout track with its build-up from acoustic verses to anthemic chorus with weeping pedal steel that suits the tragic lyrics about mental health. Then, as if to prove her versatility, Dawn gives us “Rotten”, a swinging number with horns and piano in which Dawn bemoans her life after she is dumped by her man – maybe that familiar friend of lonely blues singers, ‘old John Walker’ can provide some help! The slinky funk tune “Smoked Meat” is propelled by the horns and is apparently about what Dawn prefers from the BBQ. Time for a cover and fast-paced “Greenbacks” comes from the pen of Renald Richard who describes what is needed for a good time in downtown Montreal, with Dawn’s scat singing and Charles’ bari solo adding to the jazzy feel.
“I See” returns to the funky side of things before a fine cover of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” reminds us of what a superb song it is, especially when delivered as commandingly as here, another standout track. “It Ain’t Elvis” rocks along well with the horns doing a good job before the album closes with a reprise of “Shine On” which strips the song back to basics with Dawn and Patrick’s vocals over a drum track only. Somewhat surprisingly this simpler version is just as much gospel as the fuller version earlier on.
With her fine voice and ability to sing across several styles it is no surprise, on the evidence of this CD, that Dawn won the 2017 IBC. Jawbreaker! is a good album that has something for most tastes.