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GW Troubadours

The George Washington University

Lay Me Down - Single (2015)

3.0

Review By Kyle Yampiro

May 21, 2015

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The GW Troubadours present a new spin on an oft-covered Sam Smith tune in their duet version of Lay Me Down. While the split solo idea could serve to maximize the song's potential, the group's execution is too contrived to produce a truly moving ballad.

The duettists' opening harmony, which draws from the major-major seventh chords in the background, is chilling. In fact, I can't even listen to the original now without hearing this haunting, tasteful second voice. The arrangement is not so complex as to steal focus from the soloists, with the exception of the all-staccato second verse. Background textures, as well as the choices made as to when each soloist sings, are effective in helping to tell a story, with only a few spots in which the countermelody becomes more interesting than the melody itself, again obscuring focus.

But my main issue with this track is in its embellishments, which don't quite match up with the emotional tenor of the song. What the soloists present here are riffs and turns that don't seem to come out of a necessity they've created in their solos; rather, they are mundane, calculated copies that are part of the ink on the page. For example, when Sam Smith drops down a third at the end of phrases in the chorus, on "can I lay by your side?", the lower notes are subtle and carry less weight for stylistic emphasis, while this rendition gives equal weight to both notes. This presents less of a unique choice and more of a transcription. There is a fine line between expression and self-indulgence in longer embellishments, and the Troubadours' duet singers do not create enough of a need for their more fancy vocalisms to fit the former.

There is plenty of unique material to appreciate in this cover, but the group could go further in the ownership of future covers. 

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