Track Review: Sarah Dashew- Roll Like a Wheel



Sarah Dashew


Roll Like a Wheel




Roll Like a Wheel is available at:

12th November, 2015



Los Angeles, U.S.A.


THIS will be the second consecutive review where I will be featuring artist…

who has appeared on U.S. T.V.  My featured artist has appeared in My Name is Earl (well, her music has) and you are sure to have heard one of her tracks.  Before I get to Sarah Dashew, I wanted to raise a few points today: consistency of solo songwriters; female acts and the range of sounds out there.  I have often raised a point about solo artists and what is out there today.  I often find solo artists struggle to make early impressions on the music scenes.  Over the years I have reviewed some great solo talent, yet find that it is the bands that make the biggest early hits.  The solo artist has to do all the work themselves and there is a lot of pressure and expectation.  With so many sole acts coming through, there are a lot of eyes being cast in the pot.  Critics, fans and media are searching around seeing what is out there; whether the current crop is any good at all.  Looking back at this year, there have been a few great solo acts that have come to my attention.  What I tend to find- that is most impressive about the solo artist- is the commitment and dedication they show.  Whereas a lot of bands have multiple members and support, that is not the case with the solo act.  I always find the lone singer/songwriter has the most heart and passion when it comes to music.  There is that need to find capital and funds; the business of getting gigs and lining-up work.  It is a hard task and I admire the strength and commitment they put into the work.  The range of sounds out there is perhaps a little limited (when it comes to bands) and I feel a lot of solo artists stick closely to Pop/Indie/Folk themes.  It is okay to do that yet it does not really provide much surprise and diversity for the listener.  My featured artist is an Indie artist that separates herself from the crowd.  Whilst I find a lot of her contemporaries lackluster and samey; here we have a songwriter that sticks in the imagination and presents something different.  Before I continue on my point, let me introduce Sarah Dashew:

In less than ten years, Sarah Dashew has managed three critically-praised albums, successful tours, television spots, and a new full-length, establishing her as one of the music industry’s most consistent singer-songwriters. 

On Sarah Dashew’s latest full length, Roll Like a Wheel, one can hear her whole musical history: Texas tejano, Southern gospel, and blue-eyed soul, but now wrapped up in a distinct Los Angeles flavor. You can still hear James Taylor and Janis Joplin, but there’s clearly a Paul Simon, Graceland-era spirit to the proceedings: The rhythms of her city have combined to imprint itself on the album. “More than any other city has done before,” Dashew pronounces. That and finding true and everlasting love. 

“Estas Son Las Cosas” announces itself with blaring Mariachi horns then Spanish-sung verses, a clear homage to the eastside of LA, which she calls home. “Are You Listening?” continues the Spanish singing, this time to an upbeat pop-rock number, perfect for a dance or two. Then there’s “Roll Like a Wheel,” the stand-out track (from which the album gets its name) that almost sounds like a manifesto for both the album and her brilliant musical career: Keep the wheel spinning, keep the influences coming, and never stop. Not surprising from someone who grew up sailing around the world with her family. 

“Roll Like A Wheel is the culmination of my musical history thus far. It takes all my life and sounds from childhood to now, wraps it up in a package of Los Angeles flavor, and spins it into a journey of soul and spirit,” says Dashew. “Joy and healing. Reflection and anticipation. And all that comes down to love.” 

This insistence has earned her songs spots on the hit NBC show My Name Is Earl, inclusion in the celebrity playlist of ABC’s Ugly Betty, rave reviews of previous albums, and successful tours throughout the U.S. and Europe with the likes of Cowboy Junkies, Michelle Shocked, Suzanne Vega, and Pancho Sanchez. 

Roll Like A Wheel is engineered by Eric Lilavois (Saint Motel, My Chemical Romance) and will be released nationwide January 22”.

Dashew’s music has scored some great T.V. moments and she has garnered some positive and effusive reviews.  In the U.S. there are quite a few great female singer-songwriters emerging and Dashew is making her name heard.  Whilst her career is in its infancy, the next year will see her release an album and take her music on the road.  I am well-versed when it comes to U.K. music yet with regards U.S. music- as I mentioned in yesterday’s review- it is an unknown quantity.  I am more familiar with American band music so I always love discovering great solo talent.  Dashew has a voice and direction I have not often heard and it is great to hear someone that is distinct and original.  I cannot wait to hear her forthcoming album and would be good to see her do some dates in the U.K.  Perhaps the limits of financial flexibility will put that on hold yet there are eyes and ears here that would love to see her.  With such a reputation and acclaim under her belt, that is going to create some great momentum into 2016.

When it comes to Sarah Dashew, it is wise for the listener to look back and see how far she has progressed.  The single Take Me In was unveiled back in 2008 and is an aching and tender track that gets inside the heart.  Brimming with soul and soothing vocals, it puts me in mind of the legendary Folk singers. Our heroine is looking for comfort and refuge- is she is spinning out of control- and need someone to hold her and “take me in”.  Backed by a tender piano support, it is a confident and hugely memorable number.

Where I Belong was released in 2010 and is a wholly bouncier and more sprite number.  Climbing to the “top of your heart” our heroine’s voice is more rousing and impassioned here.  Displaying some Country edges and huge spirit, it is a song that shows a different side (to Dashew) and has an addictive and happy-go-lucky composition.  Ecstatic and proud horns mix with rolling piano to create something redemptive, positive and inspirational.  Showcasing so much spirit and heart, it is a song that displays a natural move forward.  Dashew sounds more urgent and confident and proves what a nimble and flexible songwriter she is.

Dance With Me was Dashew’s last single and reconciles her past and current endeavours.  Showcasing the tenderness and softness of early numbers, the song sees our heroine at her most insistent and compelling.  Having a secret that is hard to keep, there is mystery and ambiguity in the song.  Keeping her cards close to her chest, you start to wonder what is being ascribed in the song.  At all stages it is that aching and beautiful voice that grips and seduces.

Dashew has progressed and developed as a songwriter but was stunning to begin with.  A lot of artists start a little shakily and unsure; they evolve and improve over time.  Dashew showed- when you listen to her early tracks- how much intention and potential was there from the start.  What she is done is solidify that confidence and quality and incorporated new themes and stories into her songwriting.  The compositions are more nuanced and her voice seems stronger and more assured now.  Roll Like a Wheel proves this and stands out as one of her finest and most memorable numbers to date.

When it comes to Dashew’s music she is influenced by the likes of Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and Brandi Carlisle.  It is hard to compare Dashew’s voice and style with anyone else, but the above names are a good starting point.  She incorporates the range and Folk influences of Dylan with some raw edges and Joplin-esque touches.  When it comes down to it, Dashew is her own artist and cannot be readily compared to anyone.  You get a contemporary flavour and sound with ‘60s and ‘70s Folk/Indie touches in there.  The entire ensemble is an original and striking thing that will take the listener by surprise.

Roll Like a Wheel begins with plaintive and delicate electric guitars that gets the listener curious from the off.  Romantic and breezy, the initial words see our heroine directing towards an unnamed central figure.  Whether a friend or lover, she wants to go walk the desert.  It is hard to determine whether a relationship testimony is afoot or something based in friendship.  Whatever the initial intentions, you start to picture the scenes and the storyline unfold.  It seems that they- our heroine and her mate- have been through a lot and shared a great deal together.  There is one thing they have not learned, and that is to roll like a wheel.  Perhaps describing a relationship, it seems there have been some anxieties and stresses in the past.  Maybe I am misinterpreting but I feel there is an impasse where the sweethearts need to make a decision: the song is a declaration and a solution to the problem at hand.  By walking the desert and rolling like a wheel it eases the strains and is a way of dissipating strains that are currently being faced.  At this stage the composition rises and the vocal becomes more pressing.  When the wordless chorusing joins in the fray it puts me in mind of Paul Simon’s Graceland.  There is a sense and choir-like beauty to the vocal- you could imagine Ladysmith’ joining in to provide something ethereal and otherworldly.  Dashew takes a new approach to love and life with her original and fresh lyrics.  The vocals captivate and complete whilst the composition remains supportive and evolving.  Even in the sapling stages you are taken in by the beauty and vivid pictures of the track.  It is 95 degrees in the shade- as our heroine regretfully informs- and there is no real escape from it all.  You can see the duo pounding the desert floor and exchanging conversation.  With regards the origins and interpretation, by mind is still focused on relationship dilemmas and that need to fix issues.  The desert may be a metaphor for pressures and the heat of relationships.  Maybe stresses and tensions have reached boiling-point and that confrontational element is being documented.  The sweethearts have made some bad decisions and gone through tough times, yet there is a desire and loyalty that cannot be overlooked.  Wordless vocals and breathy notes augment that passion and beauty.  Within time those echoed and repeated vocals mix with some subtle horn notes and hissing percussive beats.  The song’s hero/subject is lonely and afraid and our heroine knows they are “not the only one”.  Between the vocal proclamations the compositions demonstrates its flexible nature and sense of occasion.  After the uplift and rouse of horns and keys, we now get something more contemplative and sensitive.  Soft guitar strings offer tranquility and a supportive shoulder; ensuring the song does not lose its momentum and purity.  After twilight there are silhouettes and love songs; all you are left with is the night.  Our heroine- to her beau and hero- wants eyes closed and minds open.  Surrendering to the night and the tranquility will offer peace of mind and lullaby.  At this stage it may not be a lover or boyfriend documented- perhaps a friend or someone struggling- but that is the strength of the song: Each listener will get a different interpretation and their own course of events.  Dashew lets her voice reign and glide wonderfully as she offers supportive arms and soul.  Those Graceland/Paul Simon comparisons come to mind strongly as the song reaches its final moments.  The combination of wordless vocals- that put me in mind of Under African Skies and Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes– and that striking lead remind me of that legendary album.  The final seconds ride that addictive and uplifting vocal; reintroduce the song’s title and emphasis the song’s messages.  Making sure the song ends on a high, Dashew lets her compelling voice strike and campaign to the very end.  Weaving in the mix of keys, strings and horns, it is an ecstatic and uplifting coda that will appeal and stick with every listener.

Being a recent convert to Sarah Dashew, I was amazed by the passion and layers of Roll Like a Wheel.  I have mentioned Graceland shades- and it is not hyperbole or over-exaggeration- but the quality and ambition is all in there.  Those lyrics have ambiguity and mystique but speak to everyone who listens.  Broad and redemptive, it implores resolve in the face of pressure and insurmountable strains.  Uplifting and positive it flies in the face of a lot of modern songs- that seem more cynical and downbeat- so it is nice to hear a song with free spirit and a real motivation.  Whether it is looking at a relationship quandary or a friendship moment I am not sure.  What we have is a track that will get you guessing and digging the lyrics and meanings.  Such a vivid and vibrant track, that wonderful and full-bodied composition gets you coming back for more.  It is Dashew’s voice that guides everything forward and adds serenity and passion to the track.  Roll Like a Wheel is one of the most instant and addictive tracks I have heard and demands repeated listens.  Once you get down to its nub you will unearth something of rare pedigree and divinity.  Make sure you check out of the U.S.’s finest songwriters of the moment.

Having been recently introduced to Dashew’s music, I have been lucky enough to review her current single.  I am often immersed in British music and rarely get a chance to experience anything beyond Britain and what we offer.  It is great to be in the U.S. (for a second day running) and witness a singer with a huge future ahead.  Having been playing for quite a few years, Dashew is growing in confidence and ambition.  With her album out early next year, it will give listeners a chance to see what is on her mind.  Having discovered her past tracks, I can see a development and a new confidence.  Growing with every release, it will be exciting to see what 2016 has in store.  Roll Like a Wheel is a bold and memorable song that will solidify her reputation as one of music’s most consistent and exciting propositions.  Before I conclude this review, I am going to go back to my early points with regards solo music and the range of sounds out there.  Dashew’s earliest sounds resonated with potential and intention so it is no exaggeration to say she didn’t need to improve or change her game.  What you find with a lot of solo artists is the weaknesses in the early stages.  Unsure of their direction and true sound, you get songs that sound a little uneasy and unfocused.  In time that confidence and assurance comes: The music will find its voice and an identity will be stamped out.  Too many U.K. solo artists do not linger in the mind and play the same kind of sounds.  Through adverts and T.V. you hear a lot of young artist- most of whom are female- that sound the same and have such an ineffectual and weak voice.  There is no emotional resonance or range; no passion or any originality or point.  I have said the band market is a little more assured and that is the case right now.  Perhaps strength-in-numbers creates flexibility and diversity in music.  Bands can do everything from Indie-Rock to Metal; across to Electro.-Pop and Hip-Hop.  The solo acts have potential yet they are a little more limited sonically.  For solo artists to gain foothold and market share there needs to be more diversity and originality.  Too many acts do not push their sound or do anything different (to what is out there).  This is a malady in the U.K. and it seems the U.S. is a little ahead of the game.  Sarah Dashew is an artist whose voice is stunning enough to distinguish herself from her peers.  The songwriting mixes love and life experiences that will appeal and resonate with the wide range of listeners.  Not one to be easily labelled or defined, you get music that seems free from anxiety and displays nothing but heart, passion and quality.  It is no surprise Dashew’s music has featured across U.S. T.V. and that is something that will continue.  The music industry is packed and growing so it is vital to celebrate those artists that do things differently and have that longevity.  There are so many musicians that quickly dissipate or they simply decline after a few releases.  Dashew has shown she gets stronger and more confident as she progresses.  With an album mooted for 2016, I will be fascinated to see what is included and what direction she goes in.  Her compositions include delicate piano and woozy horns; some stunning energy and introspective calm.  Whether we will see an influx of tremendous new songwriters it is to be seen, yet it is worth embracing those that show longevity and potential.  With the band market getting such attention and devotion, we need to shift focus to the best and brightest solo talent.  Residing out of L.A., Dashew is one of the city’s finest young songwriters.  In an area of the U.S. synonymous with musical richness and diversity, it is perhaps unsurprising the music (of Dashew) is so assured and fantastic.  I hope she will come to London and play crowds here as we hear few artists like her in the U.K.  It is left for me to recommend Roll Like a Wheel and embrace its beauty, messages…

AND mesmeric sound.



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