Daptone Records is proud to release Look Closer, the debut album by Saun & Starr, in May 2015. While the group’s name may not be immediately familiar, Starr Duncan-Lowe and Saundra Williams’ distinctive voices have been featured as the background vocals for Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings both on stage and on record. Finally, the duo has prepared to step forward into the limelight.
Though they grew up mere blocks from one another in New York’s South Bronx, singing in local church choirs and in plays since a young age, the pair didn’t meet until an open mic night in 1986. Bound by a mutual respect for each other’s talent and a shared taste for soul music, Saun & Starr formed what would be a lasting friendship.
It would be a while before their first outing as a duo. In the meantime, both ladies separately pursued their own respective singing careers. Around that time, both singers – each unaware of the other’s efforts – auditioned for a wedding band featuring Sharon Jones. The chemistry between these three women was instant and undeniable, and Saun and Starr were both selected to sing lead alongside Sharon, performing as a trio under the name The Good ‘N’ Plenty Girls for much of the 1990s. Over the next several years, each would leave the wedding band in their own time. Sharon would hook up with Desco and then Daptone Records to launch her well-documented solo career, Starr was enjoying touring with the gospel groups Glory Gospel Singers and Sister Act, and Saun was working steadily with dozens of other bands throughout NYC. In 1999, Saundra released Bless The Day, her solo full-length debut.
Although the three singers kept in touch throughout the 2000s, they did not reunite until 2008 when Sharon recruited her old friends for a one-off performance with The Dap-Kings. Soon the band realised how vital Saundra and Starr’s backing vocals were to the live show. Rechristened as The Dapettes, Starr and Saundra became regular members of Sharon Jones’ live band.
Before long, Saun & Starr joined The Dap-Kings at Daptone Records’ House of Soul in Brooklyn to begin recording an album of their own material. The first single from this session, ‘Hot Shot’ – penned by Daptone’s in-house producer Gabe Roth and Dap-Kings’ saxophonist Cheme Gastelum, and backed with ‘Gonna Make Time’ – was Daptone’s best selling 45 to date.
Look Closer, which features both tracks from the single, is the culmination of Saun & Starr’s work at the House of Soul. Its all-analogue production and masterful, rich instrumentation are hallmarks of The Dap-Kings, who perform on every track. Though the overall mood of Look Closer is joyous, there’s plenty of variety to be found within, from the dramatic attitude of ‘Your Face Before My Eyes’ to the sparkling ‘Sunshine’ and the sultry ballad ‘In The Night’. Saun & Starr’s cadences intertwine beautifully on ‘Gonna Make Time’ against a percussive backdrop, while ‘Big Wheel’ is a perfect showcase for their individual vocal talents, from emotive belting and storytelling to call-and-response and those perfectly balanced harmonies.
With their first album as a duo, Saun & Starr have finally found their home on Daptone. “Being a part of the Daptone family makes me feel free to stay true to the sounds of what we grew up on and love,” says Starr. Saun agrees, adding, “I am excited about getting this record out there and having the world hear what we’ve been working so hard on with The Dap-Kings. It’s been a long time coming. Let’s HIT IT!”
01. Look Closer (Can’t You See The Signs)
02. Hot Shot
03. Gonna Make Time
04. Sunshine (You’re Blowin’ My Cool)
05. If Only
06. Another Love Like Mine
07. Big Wheel
08. Your Face Before My Eyes
09. Dear Mr. Teddy
10. In The Night
11. Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah
The album Saun & Starr “Look Closer” (Daptone Records) is going to be released May 22, 2015.