Leo Sawikin’s “Row Me Away”
Leo Sawikin’s “Row Me Away”, despite the difficulties Sawikin sings about, is ultimately one of the most life-affirming songs I’ve heard in years. It doesn’t traffic in immaturity, its wider than average lyrical and musical perspective is obvious from first-listen, and its exultant peaks are among the best in recent pop music history. You won’t hear Sawikin proclaiming about the beauty of life or the wonders of creation, no, but what you do hear is an irrepressible human voice incapable of accepting defeat. I felt a rising within hearing this track and it holds up under repeated listens.
The musicality is a big reason why. Sawikin goes big with “Row Me Away”, even if the track doesn’t go over five minutes it still occupies a big stage, The primary musical elements propelling the track forward are vocals, bass, and drums, but electronic instrumentation and guitar play a role as well. Sawikin’s rhythm section for this particular track, the title song of his upcoming solo debut, is drummer Avishai Rozen and bassist Marc Swersky. The latter is the song’s producer as well and the key piece he represents for this track cannot be overstated. His bass playing, however, brings dimensions to the track that it would not otherwise possess and will astound listeners at an assortment of points.
The drumming transforms over the track’s duration, but much of the time it has an imposing percussive presence. It starts the song off with a much more restrained vibe and its somewhat gradual shift into the hard hitting defining the bulk of the song. Guitar plays a much more crucial role in other cuts, I am sure, but Vin Landolfi’s guitar playing meshes well with the track and further fills out its sound.
Sawikin’s vocal gifts are considerable. He immediately commands your attention and requires scant support, post-production or otherwise, to reinforce his hold on your consciousness. The best singers inspire a sort of suspension of disbelief, inviting you into their artistic world, and Sawikin fits the bill at an astonishingly young age. It is a quality that many singers take decades to develop, but Leo Sawikin has reached an early zenith with this performance it will be difficult to improve on.
I expect he will, however. He possesses the special sort of talent that transcends the scene – it isn’t aiming at favor in the moment alone, but favor for decades to come. Swersky’s production frames his songwriting art in the best possible light. It never sounds anything less than up to date and captures each nuance of the composition without focusing on a single element over all others. His power as both a performer and composer is astonishing in someone so new in their journey and that effect will only grow with each new release. Leo Sawikin is a lifer. Even if he never publicly released another note of music, there’s no doubt Sawikin would continue singing for his own pleasure and catharsis. We’re fortunate to hear his voice and I look forward to hearing it for decades to come.
Photo by Griffin Lotz