Lowen and Navarro
by Seth Rogovoy

(GREAT BARRINGTON, May 2, 2003) – At the outset of his show at Club Helsinki on Thursday night, Dan Navarro – with his partner Eric Lowen, one-half of the singer-songwriter duo Lowen and Navarro – promised “a whole bunch of songs about people with really bad personal lives.” For the next 90 minutes, the duo delivered pretty much as promised a program of bittersweet love songs and mid-tempo ballads in shimmering, acoustic pop-folk arrangements.

Lowen and Navarro first got together about 20 years ago to write songs, and enjoyed some considerable success, supplying tracks to the Bangles, Dave Edmunds and David Lee Roth, and one huge hit to Pat Benatar that has probably provided them with a lifetime annuity.

A little over a decade ago the two decided to take their guitars and voices on the road and perform their own material. The male acoustic duo format has been out of style for over 20 years since the heyday of England Dan and John Ford Coley and their ilk, but Lowen and Navarro tap into some timeless elements – close harmony singing derived from old-time country and bluegrass, and doo-wop-derived soul melodies along the lines of the Righteous Brothers and Daryl Hall and John Oates (whom the duo resembles generically, in this case Lowen in the Hall role of the tall blonde, and Navarro, the short, dark one).

The duo certainly had all the technical elements at their disposal. Navarro boasted a rich, expressive alto, and Lowen’s sharper, higher tones cut through in resonant harmony. And the two have clearly worked as hard as anything on their guitar arrangements, both playing acoustic guitar and making their chords and single-line riffs and notes harmonize with as much natural finesse as their vocals.

The duo makes no attempt to be trendy in their songwriting. Their arrangements are solidly stuck in the adult contemporary style of the late-1970s, with hints of easygoing, Southern California pop-rock. “Raining in My Eyes” could have been the by-the-numbers spawn of the Eagles’ “Lyin’ Eyes” and the Band’s “It Makes No Difference,” and “All Is Quiet” was colored by a chiming riff on Lowen’s 12-string guitar right out of Roger McGuinn’s playbook for the Byrds.

There wasn’t much variety in the duo’s performance, however. They write one kind of song, and they do it over and over again, which makes for a somewhat tedious concert listening experience.

Lowen and Navarro leavened the experience with good-natured stage patter that went far to connect with the small audience. And for their encore, they left the stage and took their acoustic guitars into the house, performing a literally unplugged version of their greatest hit, “We Belong,” and wrapping into it verses from the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and the McCoys’ “Hang on Sloopy.”

[This review originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on May 3, 2003. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2003. All rights reserved.]

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