Saun & Starr | Look Closer

Saun & Starr

Saun & Starr | Look Closer
By Peggy Oliver

Call it coincidence or better yet, call it destiny when two or more people immediately connect with each other while managing to continue their circle of life through various spaces of time. Sandra ‘Saun’ Williams and Starr Duncan-Lowe grew up a short distance from each other in The Bronx, New York. Yet it was their meeting at a local talent show that began their journey of a much respected friendship – musically and personally – and the rest is more than history. A few years down the road, Saun and Starr auditioned for a reputable wedding band in the New Jersey area that included Sharon Jones. Needless to say, the threesome coincidentally hit it off and joined forces to become The Good ‘N Plenty Girls. After T.G.N.P.G.’s run in the nineties, the ladies went their separate ways until destiny ruled again in 2008, as Jones recruited Saun & Starr to join The Dap-Kings. This reunion was the launching point for the now dubbed Dapettes, whose background contributions would be rewarded with more lead vocal spotlights, leading up to their ultimate Daptone destiny in their debut, Look Closer. Accompanied by The Dap-Kings, Saun and Starr are surrounded by simple production that strays away from excess studio trickery and raw vocal passion that recall duos from the sixties, like Sam & Dave and James & Bobby Purify.

Look Closer is fully graced by the interaction, harmonies and lead vocals between these two ladies, powered by sophisticated soul attitude that is accented with some comedic edges. “Look Closer (Can’t You See the Signs?),” released as a single in 2014, is an engaging, tongue-in-cheek video about the duo standing in line to audition for the fictional ‘Mr. James Daptone,’ while the ‘potential’ candidates lip-synch to Saun & Starr’s soundtrack and label mate Sharon Jones comes to the ladies’ rescue to pitch their vocal skills. The same applies for “Big Wheel,” a crisp funky workout mirroring “Cleanup Woman” by Betty Wright, as Saun & Starr frolic and dance throughout an amusement park. A familiar, relevant phase is channeled on the Stax Records-fueled “Blah, Blah, Blah,” that rubs humorous sarcasm in every which direction: “I will sing about a princess and a prince that was a toad…/But to sing that song for you/Is something I will never do.” “Hot Shot” basks in a southern soul stew with guitar strokes, bouncy percussion and smartly layered with horns. For a slight change of pace, “In the Night” boasts a sixties R&B/pop flavor with reverb guitar and intense piano hooks. Though “Another Love Like Mine” leans a bit more in an R&B/hip-hop direction, the retro foundation firmly remains in place. Finally, “If Only” provides the somber exception to Look Closer, a slow burning blues ballad about a lover pleading for another chance, peaked by a swift mood change where the ladies crank up their soul swagger.

It is no coincidence that Saun & Starr and The Dap-Kings are more than familiar with each other, the most important key to Look Closer’s major success. Now that Saun & Starr’s definitive destiny has been fulfilled, the Daptone Records sky for this dynamic duo have opened up even further. Five out of five stars.

Peggy Oliver
The Urban Music Scene