The union of musical talents making up Studio D’Lux promises remarkable things and delivers. Keyboard player/pianist, singer, and songwriter Doug Kistner’s project enlist drummer Liberty DeVitto, Steely Dan guitarist Jon Herington, respected singer and songwriter Bill Champlin, and bass player Malcolm Gold in a band that has one EP under their belt and a new single in the offing. “Slow Burn” builds on the promise of its brief predecessor with a slick and expertly crafted AOR track that doesn’t traffic in rote paint-by-numbers dross but, instead, sweeps over listeners with audible gravitas. I hear master performers working at the highest possible level and intent on producing memorable material.
I can’t hear even a second that doesn’t hang together. Everything is here. The memorable piano-led introduction transforms into a full-fledged band performance charged by DeVitto’s propulsive drumming and Kistner stands out with his undeniable vocal presence. Champlin’s vocal contributions are essential. Kistner puts his talents to use in the right places without ever relegating him to an afterthought. The lyrical content shouldn’t be confused with performed poetry, but it’s obvious that Kistner and his collaborators fully invest themselves in the song’s message. It will connect with a wide swath of listeners.
I’m especially taken by Herington’s performance. The guitarist hangs back during the verses but steps out at crucial points to take charge of the recording. He does so without ever obscuring his bandmates. This is the mark of an experienced musician whose first concern is elevating the song rather than his professional profile. I believe Malcolm Gold deserves mention as well for the steady pulse he provides throughout the track. Gold and DeVitto make for a formidable tandem in the song’s engine room and “Slow Burn” would be a lesser experience without their skillful presence.
The stellar production plays a big part in bringing the song to life. It has a clean, uncluttered sound that affords each participant their slot in the overall whole and exudes warmth at every turn. “Slow Burn” never risks sounding manufactured or over-produced. It has a “live” in-the-moment feel and sounds as if it would seamlessly translate from the studio to the stage with minimal changes. Kistner and his cohorts likewise keep things on point, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find even a second of fat on this track.
Studio D’Lux doesn’t sound like a well-intentioned lark or side project. There’s nothing about “Slow Burn” that suggests the musicians involved regard it as anything less than an ongoing band committed to building a vibrant catalog and this new single is a worthy step in that direction. There’s no arguing that it has a decidedly retro feel, too few modern bands are addressing this style, but nor does it sound like a song that’s mired in the past. Timelessness, by definition, never dates.
I’m interested to hear and see what the future holds for this unit. Studio D’Lux isn’t in the process of finding its footing; “Slow Burn” sounds like they’ve arrived with a specific vision and style that’s open-ended enough to grow further. I’ll be listening and eager to hear what’s next.