Dawn Tyler Watson – Mad Love
In the two years since she earned first place in the Band category at the International Blues Challenge, vocalist Dawn Tyler Watson has toured the world while maintaining an active schedule in venues across Canada. Her festival appearances have expanded her fan base as attendees are captivated by a striking voice coupled with a commanding stage presence. She was nominated for a 2017 Blues Blast Award in the Sean Costello Rising Star Award category in addition to receiving numerous Canadian Blues music awards.
On her fifth recording, Watson is reunited with the Ben Racine Band, the group that backed her at the International Blues Challenge. With a three piece horn section, this experienced aggregation packs the instrumental firepower equal to Watson’s considerable talents. That is apparent right from the start as Francois Dube lays down a thick bass line, then drummer Nicky Estor jumps in to set up a propulsive rhythm on “Alligator”. Guest Steve Marriner (MonkeyJunk) blows some sweet harp licks as the singer relates the joy she feels in her life as a road warrior.
The disc features eight other emotive original tunes from Watson, with “Feel Good To Watch You Go” being a moving break-up ballad with Watson leaving no doubt that she will endure after her man is gone. Racine answers her pain with a heartrending guitar break. “This & That” is a swinging affair as Watson preaches equality in her relationship, egged on by insistent riffing from the horn section, consisting of Mathieu “Moose” Mousseau on baritone sax, Kaven Jalbert on tenor and baritone sax, and Nicolas Boulay on trumpet. The horns also play a prominent role on “Masochistic Heart,” cushioning the singer’s desperate admission that she lacks the willpower to break free of love’s hold.
“Lost” is another dark expression of love gone bad, the eerie mood set up by lingering chords from John Sadowy on organ. There are more broken emotions to deal with on “Love To Burn,” but this time Watson is taking command, declaring the time for talk is past, now it’s time for her man to get gone. The singer celebrates her independence on a romping jaunt through “I Look Good,” confident that she has what it takes to attract more than a few possible replacement suitors. “Little Frankie” Thiffault adds his soaring tenor sax to the mix. The lost love theme continues on “Away Too Fast,” a soulful number featuring a stellar Jalbert tenor sax solo.
Of the three covers, “Don’t Make Me Mad” induces the most vivid reaction as Watson verbalizes a stern warning to remain true, the band laying down a swaggering accompaniment that drives the point home, with Alain Talbot joining on bass trombone. The mood improves with a distinctive New Orleans feel on “The Only One For Me,” as Racine shares the vocal lead for a mutual declaration of love. Weak lyrical content might have doomed the ominous “Bad Seed”. But Watson’s chilling portrayal, coupled with guest Steve Hill’s intense guitar interludes, carries the day in the end.
For the closing song, Watson shifts to a gospel-like presentation on “The River,” the combination of her voice with Liana Primerano’s ethereal tones immerses listeners in a message of uplifting reverence, complete with a twist at the end. It is a fitting ending for a project that highlights Watson’s talents as a singer and songwriter. With rousing support form the Ben Racine Band, she is once again reaching for the highest level of recognition from the international blues community. A disc well-worth a listen…….