Dawn Pemberton’s début album Say Somethin’ feels as though it should have been released in the middle of July. Its soulful groove and feel-good lyrics seem to lend themselves best to carefree strolls in the sun and lazy summer evenings. With the help of a solid 7-man band including guitar, keys, saxophone, and trumpet, the album, released last week on Do Right! Music, manages to convey infectious rhythms and joyful tunes with an altogether pleasant result.
Though the soul album is Dawn Pemberton’s first solo endeavor, its polished sound clues us into the fact that this West Coast performer is in fact no stranger to arrangement and performance. The effortless nature of the vocals on each track denotes the absolute control she has over her instrument, as she deftly transitions from a low, husky delivery on her opening track For You to the satisfying belt she finally lets out on the title track Say Somethin’ a few minutes in. She is indeed a master of buildup, and uses this skill on numerous songs.
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Throughout, the instrumentation is diverse and interesting, and highlights the best of various styles. The horn riffs and numerous instrumental solos reminds me of a tightly put-together jazz band, her voice comes with all the textures of the best of ‘80s R&B, and the rhythms are classic funk. Each track is accompanied by its own foot-tapping beat and catchy riff, whether from the keys, horns, or bass. She also introduces a wide range of textures, from prominent synth sounds to almost rock-and-roll-like guitar solos. Along with her voice that borrows from pop, jazz, and of course soul, the album truly displays a rich panoply of influences and styles.
While the styles and instrumentation vary throughout the album, the lyrics remain consistently upbeat and joyful. She sings of freedom, of romantic flings, and of the importance of self-esteem, all with the same refreshing ease and conviction characteristic of the album.
Overall, the listening of Say Somethin’ is as easy as a hot summer afternoon. I recommend giving it a listen – with the long winter fast approaching, we could all use a little sun.
Say Sumthin’ is out now.