Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR), violinist and composer joined forces with Laurelyn Dossett, singer/songwriter, in a project that took them across the state. The series of seven concerts and the album The Collide were the culmination of a three-year project, "Connecting Crossroads in North Carolina." This program of storytelling through song was presented by a cast of players that included musicians from the academic community. It was not just the celebratory end of the road; the concert was the last one in NC State University's Stewart Theatre before it closes for renovations.
Thin layers of cloud, a simulated story-land, DBR, Laurelyn Dossett and Jason Corder (NC State, guitar) opened with “Blackbird” (Lennon/McCartny). Dossett's beautiful soto voce and DBR's gentle violin obbligato helped create a dream-like atmosphere. The concert included songs crafted from stories and experiences gathered along their road trip. And joined by Jason Sypher, bass; Scott Manring, banjo and guitar; and Eddie Walker, drums, DBR and Dossett performed music featured on their recording. The result is a patch-work of old-time and newly composed ballads with fringes of southern blues and stitched together with the rhythmic vitality of rock and roll and hip-hop.
From the very sweet “High and Blue” to the haunting “Garden of the Secret Heart,” they chatted between pieces, sharing colorful vignettes. Some were soulful portraits (“Cate”), stories of everyday life, and others funny recollections (“Mr. Knieval”). Although the project was his idea, DBR gave Dossett full reign in their partnership. Her poetry and voice are central to many of the compositions. Because she is a native, and therefore the tour guide, one might consider their journey "the education of Daniel." But his instrumental ideas are stamped on every piece. And that's what makes the music so wonderful. There are more layers to this living tapestry, however.
Dividing the concert into "Acts," Roumain announced the sections from the stage. Act I included musicians from NC State: a student string quartet (James Nance, violin; Eric Burns, violin; Brant Johnson, viola; and Taylor Threatt, cello); spoken word guest artists Thomas "RaShad" Easley and Norm Johnson. The quartet played the second movement of DBR's String Quartet No. 2. And in DBR's spirit of optimism, he introduced the spoken word artists with " . . . we hope you dig it." All returned for a singular encore.
There were special moments. Marina De Ratmiroff (soprano, UNC-W) added an iridescent thread to the texture, especially her gorgeous vocalise in “Black Man Singing.” And Dossett sang the traditional piece “Red Rocking Chair” and poignant “Cate” with the intimate quality of a lullaby. Roumain played electric violin and piano with his high energy style. His communication with Eddie Walker (drums) was marvelous. And his singing (“Brown-Eyed Boston Boy”) was tender.
On this special occasion, DBR and Laurelyn Dossett, along with fellow musicians and friends, struck a deep chord with the audience. Some of their stories will remain on a recorded album, and many more are surely seared in the memories of the ones they personally touched.