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Dunn Robyne - Live At The Basement

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 4 / 8 / 2003

Dunn Robyne - Live At The Basement
Label: Laughing Outlaw
Format: CD


Jazz-influenced, accomplished live release from Australian singer-songwriter Robyn Dunn, recorded over three evenings in Melbourne's smoky basement bar

Another Laughing Outlaw signing on their fourth album and another Australian act on the label which is new to my ears (see also the review by labelmates Bluebottle Kiss), although the sound between these two artists couldn’t be greater. This time I’ve not researched too much into Dunn’s background on purpose. I’ve listened to this album for a few weeks now and I understand that as it is her first live album (it was recorded in 1999 at the Basement in Sydney over three evenings) Dunn has taken some songs from her previous albums and put them in a new setting. I don’t know what the Basement in Sydney is like, never having been there, but these songs, in this interpretation, sound like it is a smoky jazz joint which is probably as far away from the truth as you can get! But there is no denying that these songs are given the jazz treatment. Again not knowing the singer/songwriter's previous work it is impossible to compare these readings with those originals but they certainly work in this context. The 11 songs are all quite long. There is not one under 5 minutes and 3 of them go over 7 minutes. This is good as it gives the songs the chance to develop and make their mark and, as with most of the music in this vein, the melodies are not as instant as the music we hear blaring out of our radios all day long. These songs need time to reveal their beauty but it is time worth giving. This is late night listening with the lights low, or a Sunday morning album. It’s not an album to listen to driving along in the car, I’ve tried it and because it is so quiet, and requires attention it’s best listened to in a home setting. It’s on the fourth, ‘History’ where it all started to make sense to me. The often-cited influences of Kate Bush and Tori Amos are to be heard on this track. It has a beautiful melody. Dunn’s vocals have an amazing clarity and the piano playing by Matt McMahon is simply breathtaking. From there on the album seems to get better and better. The following track, ‘Sleeping Dogs', again displays Dunn’s strong vocal prowess and the band including Steve Hunter on bass and Dave Goodman on drums (outstanding throughout the album, but especially so on this track) are excellent. I’m no jazz expert and wouldn’t dare to try to offer any technical details about the music on this album, but I do know well played music when I hear it and I hear a lot of it on these tracks. There is a lot of feeling in the playing, so much that if you close your eyes while listening to the album you are taken to the Basement and feel part of the audience. Thanks to Norah Jones a new generation (and some of us older ones who didn’t get it the first time around) are discovering the joys of jazz tinged music and while I’d make a guess that Dunn has been playing for a lot longer than Norah Jones maybe the breakthrough Jones has made will pave the way for the likes of Dunn to now reach a wider audience. I always feel that if on hearing an artist’s work for the first time you are impressed enough to check out their back catalogue then obviously their music has touched you and made an impression. I have no doubt that very shortly I will be reaching into my pockets to shell out for Dunn’s previous three albums. Partly out of curiosity I’d like to hear if these songs work as well in a different setting or to hear if they already had this laid back jazz sound, and partly because Dunn is such an accomplished singer I would simply love to hear more of her work.

Track Listing:-
1 Daisies
2 Valley of Tears
3 Here With You
4 History
5 Sleeping Dogs
6 Joy
7 Going Going Gone
8 Lucky
9 Torn Apart
10 Be Yours
11 Good Morning Heartache

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