Owls and Lions open the single “God Bless You & Protect You” with Jay Della Valle’s clean and straight-forward acoustic guitar before Nicole DeLoi introduces the song’s first vocal. Her voice has a touch of the ethereal but an emotional delivery that never strikes an overwrought note provides firm grounding for her talents. She isn’t the sole vocal talent working through this cut from their new EP There’s a Light – Valle, likewise, serves the song well with his bell-clear singing. He doesn’t quite have the same emotive edge to his voice defining DeLoi’s, but provides a well-balanced contrast to DeLoi’s pipes. They demonstrates obvious sympathy for each other’s talents and their interplay helps make for a more cohesive track overall.
DeLoi, Owls and Lions’ main songwriter, structures the track as a dialogue between two characters and\the hit NBC television drama This Is Us inspires DeLoi’s songwriting. It is more appropriate to hear the song as an interpretation of the show’s dramatic dynamics rather than a literal rendering and, without a doubt, transmuted through DeLoi’s own experiences to a degree. “God Bless You & Protect You” explores the relationship between a parent and offspring – the joys, regrets, the moments of wide-open communication alternating with furtive secrets, and ultimately the shared love.
Owls and Lions’ “unofficial” third member drummer Kevin Walters joins DeLoi and Valle for this cut. He isn’t present in the arrangement from the outset but, when he makes his entrance, his playing exerts a transformative effect on the recording and contributes added ballast and gravitas to the performance. The mid-tempo pace he lays down for the track peaks with the song’s chorus and its light rousing spirit will leave listeners smiling without ever sounding too saccharine and careful build of the track reflects the care DeLoi and Valle take as songwriters.
The video released with the single reflects that same level of care. The visuals are atmospheric without ever feeling hamfisted or labored and the professional polish they bring to the production enhances the musical performance without ever overshadowing the true star of the moment – the craftsmanship and deep feeling Owls and Lions bring to the work. Despite the aforementioned television show’s inspiration for this song, there are no clear references to the source material spurring the duo’s creativity – “God Bless You & Protect You”, instead, stands on its own as a musical work of art drawn from the heart.
If this track can be considered representative of the duo’s EP, new and longtime fans alike can rest assured they are in good hands with Owls and Lions’ There’s a Light. It illustrates their talents well, has a natural sound, and never sounds forced. Nicole DeLoi and Jay Della Valle are not newcomers to the music scene and enjoy growing renown on the east coast and beyond, but their new EP There’s a Light seems poised to exponentially expand their profile and immeasurably enhance their reputation. It is one of the best singles I’ve heard in recent memory and bodes well for their new release.
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