Material: The designation singer/songwriter must have been reserved for artists like Los Angeles-based Sara Melson, whose songs read like a diary set to music. In N.Y. to promote her brand-new release Safe & Sound, Melson delivered a set of cuts from the new album along with some of her earlier work.
As an actress-turned-performing musician, her songs are mini-dramas and thematically deal with relationship woes and romantic betterment.
In her song “Go Where It’s Warm,” Melson’s double entendre twist on leaving a relationship for a more conducive environment, works on two levels: “I’ve gotta go where it’s warm, cause the winds of change are blowing through/I’m gonna go where it’s warm where I don’t have to perform, where I’ll be far, far away from you.”
In “Never Been Hurt,” Melson demonstrates the willingness to jump into the fire once again, reaching out to grab that silver lining: “I’m gonna love you like I’ve never been hurt before/Gonna open up the lock and let you in the door.”
Musicianship: Equally proficient on keyboards and guitar, Melson employed the instrument that best fit the song. Her alto voice is unadorned and direct, with no vibrato and, to her credit, devoid of pyrotechnics, which can often detract from the song and the underlying story. Accompanied by violinist Erica Quitsow, Melson used that instrument sparingly and at the appropriate times. The two met on Facebook, which is a thumbs up for the positive uses of social media.
Performance: The artist’s laid-back persona dovetailed naturally with her material. Opening up about the backstory behind “Go Where It’s Warm” gave the audience some insight into her songwriting influences. Though the crowd was attentive, and though Pianos is a respectable venue with enthusiastic listeners, it has more of a bar atmosphere.
Melson’s sensitive, introspective music might be better suited to a coffeehouse setting or intimate club where her particular brand of emoting can be more effectively spotlighted. Even her sultry version of the Rolling Stones’ “No Expectations” got a bit lost in the club’s background noises and/or too much reverb in the PA.
Summary: Sara Melson has a good handle on her repertoire and is comfortable in her genre. Going forward, she would be wise to choose venues more carefully.
The Players: Sara Melson, vocals, keyboards, guitar; Erica Quitsow, violin.
Photo by Mark Shiwolich
Sara Melson - "El Matador Beach"
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