The New Jersey headquartered folk duo Owls and Lions don’t ply their trade via their releases alone. They command a sizable following thanks to their frequent appearances at weddings and other pivotal moments in individual’s lives – they are unique in their ability to both entertain and elevate audiences with the power of their musical craft. Vocalist and violinist Nicole DeLoi and vocalist/guitar player Jay Della Valle make a powerful tandem and the extent of their gifts are fully exhibited on their five-song EP There’s a Light. The avidly followed television show This Is Us provides the spark for their single “God Bless You & Protect You” and even a single listen makes it clear the heartfelt dramatics of the show has affected songwriter Nicole DeLoi on the deepest level.
It is easy to theorize the themes of family and abiding love in the face of life’s challenges resonates with DeLoi’s own autobiography but artistry overcomes any impulses leaning towards memoir and, instead, leaves listeners with a song anyone over thirty years old can relate to. DeLoi‘s vocal leads the way into the song and she alternates lines with Valle’s own vocal. They are very different singers in some respects but united by a common drive towards exposing the song’s heart for listeners. DeLoi’s voice has an angelic tone, but there’s hard won emotion present as well. Both singers are skilled and possess palpable technical gifts, but they never allow those talents to subvert the humanity of their performance,
The video for the track makes that humanity apparent. It eschews the jump cut approach common to music videos for the most part and makes a concerted effort to invoke atmospheric touches from its well chosen imagery. There is no dialogue, but Valle and DeLoi’s own daughter acquit themselves well in the roles of father and child with suggestive performances well in keeping with the song’s themes. It makes for an excellent accompaniment to the song.
“God Bless You & Protect You” has a perfect musical arrangement – it is fine tuned without ever sounding bloodless and over rehearsed. It incorporates a limited selection of instruments to make the performance work. Acoustic guitar is the dominant sound mixing with the duel vocals, but Valle’s understated electric guitar contributions are important. They bring an extra splash of musical color to the song and help flesh out its potential. The band’s frequent drummer Kevin Walters puts an emphatic exclamation point on the performance with his drumming.
Owls and Lions, if nothing else, prove there is still a lot of life in traditional music because it touches human emotions with a minimum of frills. They are two singers who share common thematic concerns and even a much ballyhooed term like “chemistry” seems insufficient when describing how well they work together. Some musical partnerships are made; others are born. Based on “God Bless You & Protect You” alone, it seems like a safe bet Owls and Lions have scored with There’s a Light in a way that destines their professional profile to take on an even greater scale than ever before and, if so, it is a reward they well deserve.
Find more from Owls And Lions HERE.
-review by Lloyd Bear