Dawn At Night – Nataly Dawn at the Hotel Cafe
I knew a few things about Nataly Dawn before I went to see her short set at the Hotel Cafe the other night. She has been in a band named Pomplamoose, which shouldn’t be confused with Huffamoose, and I liked the several songs I had heard of hers, but I wasn’t prepared to be so thoroughly impressed with her performance.
On stage, the pixie-haired Dawn sparkled while delivering a smart set of songs (some originals, some covers) that was full humor and heart. Her original numbers typically dealt with relationships but each one had its own distinctive qualities. Dawn’s opening tune “Leslie” addressed the perils of growing up while “Back to the Barracks” used military metaphors to deal with a relationship. Songs like the powerful “Please Don’t Scream” and “I Just Want You To Get Old” reveals an emotional depth as they explore troubled, messy relationships. In two rather personal tunes – one about a student/professor relationship and another inspired by her grandmother – Dawn draws laughs with her witty lyrics but she doesn’t lessen the emotional material.
Dawn’s expressive vocals also helped to convey the various shades of her songs. She has a strong voice but she never lets it overwhelm her songs. Instead, she utilizes it to articulate the many moods and emotions that run through her lyrics.
Playing a compact parlor guitar, Dawn provided a light, charming quality to her songs, which drew upon elements of folk, jazz and pop, as well as revealing the lilt of French chansons. This latter influence became all the more apparent with her closing number – a spirited rendition of “La Vie En Rose.”
Accompanying her on-stage was Ryan Lerman, whose slinky work on the electric guitar and slow picking the banjo nice accentuated Dawn’s artful, lo-key arrangements. His subtle support was particularly evident in her covers – her unadorned but engaging renderings of Queen’s “Game of Love” and Coldplay’s “Green Eyes,” while Rufus Wainwright’s “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk” fit wonderfully with Dawn’s own clever tunes.
Listening to Dawn’s songs made me visualize them as little animated short films that might screen in film festivals. Her jaunty music was built around its own interesting internal logic instead of the standard verse-chorus-verse structure, while her lyrics offered vivid little tales about personal experiences that felt unique but also universal.
There are certainly many singer-songwriters out there, but Nataly Dawn (whose How I Knew Her recently was released on Nonesuch) certainly did her best to make an memorable impression.