REVIEW: Leo Sawikin — Row Me Away (SINGLE)
The title track for Leo Sawikin’s debut solo release, “Row Me Away”, serves notice of a major talent’s arrival. He brings outstanding pop skills to the table, his clear voice cutting through the often-layered arrangement with ease, but his engagement with the music is far from shallow. There’s genuine musical substance present throughout the piece.
Orchestrating this piece could have ended in disaster. The disparate musical elements comprising the music’s DNA complement one another rather than clashing and the patient manipulation of its dynamics hooks listeners early. Sawikin’s sensitive reading of the opening lines provides little hint of the power he can bring and what his later muscle demonstrates is, if nothing else, that the gifted singer understands how to milk a song’s dramatic potential.
It never feels stagy however. “Row Me Away” plays and feels like an authentic paean to enduring life’s trials with grace and wisdom rather than a ham fisted pop confection with delusions of grandeur. It’s a song befitting a much older artist, especially because of its perspective, and he’s recruited a first-class cadre of collaborators to help him realize his musical vision.
The lyrics are spot on all the way through. Sawikin tailors the writing to work with the music; I am hard pressed to identify a single excessive line in the cut. The chorus delivers in a big way thanks to his economical style. This is Sawikin’s first solo release but, if the title song is reflective of the album’s overall quality, then Leo has hit an early peak it will be a challenge to match.
“Row Me Away” sets the bar high but never out of reach for every-day listeners. It expresses emotions common to adult human experience and the ambitious musical setting gives it a sense of gravitas. It evolves in a natural way experienced music listeners will recognize without ever seeming too predictable. Leo Sawikin invests his performance with a great deal of confidence as well, but he is never strident. His voice picked me up and carried me away without ever feeling too aggressive.
The sort of theatrical pop he peddles here is always in vogue, but its practitioners are fewer than ever. It takes a special caliber of performer, writer, and vocalist to strike the right note with a song such as this, but all the ingredients are present. The engine room deserves particular praise. The drumming and, especially, bass playing lay down a commanding tone you cannot ignore. There are additional instruments present in the mix, of course, and a dollop of production gloss adds further polish. It’s a feast for the ears.
It’s difficult to conceive a better way to introduce his forthcoming collection. Leo Sawikin’s “Row Me Away” has an unusual sound when compared to much of modern popular music and boasts a five-star presentation any discerning listener will appreciate. Let’s hope the remainder of this album matches the same high standards set by this track. I expect they will and that there may be even greater glories to come.