The Dallas String Quartet have peers and contemporaries mining the same general musical territory that they are but, for the most part, the pop/classical band has planted their flag in a corner of the music world that is all their own. Revamping songs from a wide cross section of pop music and tossing in some polished takes on time-honored classical pieces as they do on Love Always, their new album, produces a rich collection of material that never rests for long in one place. They’ve played for Presidents, global organizations, and filled important venues, but the Dallas String Quartet has an intimate sound at all times that invites listeners deep into their world.
They are adept with melody in a way few musical bands are. In a song such as Love Always’ cover of the pop hit “10,000 Days”, Dallas String Quartet ride the song’s central melody as if it’s like breathing for them and interlace their parts into an overall whole with a steady hand. There are no holes in the band’s presentation. They have an obvious preference for Taylor Swift that comes through in the songs “Lover” and “Wildest Dreams”. The former gives them a chance to wander a moodier musical landscape than they do in many of the album’s other performances but, stripped of Swift’s lyrics, we hear nothing but melody here, It’s compelling stuff.
“You Are the Reason” is another cover and this time introduces listeners to the album’s sole guest stars. The Piano Guys’ obvious contributions to the piece help make it one of the standout moments on Love Always. You can definitely refer to what DSQ offers as “easy listening music”, but question the musicianship and you sound deaf. Anyone listening to this release will be drawn into its world and it’s through skill rather than gimmickry.
They make the covers their own – as any cover should. “Bless the Broken Road” has a definite and much more introspective character stripped of Rascal Flatt’s vocal and lyrical content. It’s successful in its own right without ever betraying the original’s musical impulses and direction – if anything, the three part violin arrangement plays to the songwriting strengths. “Canon in D” does as well. Originally scored for three violins, this venerable wedding standard gets far more than perfunctory treatment in their hands.
The album’s final tandem of “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and “Hallelujah” makes for an excellent one-two knockout punch. “Can’t Help Falling in Love” is a track that virtually everyone is familiar with and its almost-languid pace is a reassurance, a comfort, while Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is a bold lightning strike from above ending the release. The Dallas String Quartet builds this performance to impressive heights worthy of one of the great poet’s finest songs. Dallas String Quartet are quietly, over time, weaving themselves deeper and deeper into the fabric of modern music and the eleven songs on Love Always, their latest, rate among the best yet from this unit. Long may they continue to play.