Friday, December 12, 2014

Dawn Sears ~ Something Truly Beautiful

By Peter Rodman
ou may walk by it a hundred times, before you notice a wildflower in the sidewalk. 
But that’s okay--it’s not there for any other reason than to offer something of beauty, where you least expect it.  Recognition isn’t the point.

Dawn Sears at left, watching fellow 'Time Jumpers' Larry
Franklin, Joe Spivey, Kenny Sears (her husband) and Vince Gill.
Photograph Copyright 2011 by Peter Rodman.
Even before she got sick, Dawn Sears always sat humbly at stage-right, flanked by 8 or 10 men whose shining moments came during their various solos, invariably rewarded with rousing ovations, as The Time Jumpers held court on yet another Monday night.
Lord knows, they’d rounded up some world class pickers:  Paul Franklin on steel; Larry Franklin, Kenny Sears, and Joe Spivey on fiddles; ‘Ranger Doug’ providing the cartoon effect; Jeff Taylor’s accordion; Andy Reiss on lead guitar; Vince Gill, now a permanent member (and the ‘main draw,’ for out-of-towners); and all the rest. 
And then...there’d be Dawn. 
Surrounded by testosterone, she could easily have overdressed, taken center stage, and belted out everything she sang…you know, “Let ’em know who’s boss!”…but that was never her style.
Dawn Sears watches Vince Gill's moment,
as world renowned steel player Paul Franklin
works his own brand of magic with 'The Time Jumpers.'
Photograph Copyright 2011 by Peter Rodman.

Instead Dawn sat way down near the end on a little stool, the picture of grace and dignity, appreciatively listening to it all until it was her turn to sing.
It was almost as if ‘a regular housewife’ dropped by, to sit in on a few numbers.
Whatever inner peace she exuded was real. 

Before you ever even heard her, you were already glad she was there.
And then, she began to sing.

Suddenly the whole crowd, all hopped-up on speedy picks and fancy licks, began to mist over, under the spell of her maple syrup voice. They unconsciously swooned, almost as one, each realizing this might be the most special night of music they’d come to see in a very long time.
Dawn Sears at 'Station Inn'
Photograph Copyright 2011 by Peter Rodman.

Oprah Winfrey used to use “I’m Every Woman” as her theme song, but you always knew she wasn’t. 

Dawn Sears was every woman. Everything you loved about your Mom or your sister or your girlfriend was all right there onstage, sitting on that stool, waiting its turn to give back to this world something beautiful and unexpected, like a flower's gift. 

There’s an inner voice we all have, dying to get out.  We’d love to think it’s as perfectly nuanced as Dawn’s, too--especially since she always made it look so damn easy.  Inside our heart and soul's imagination, that voice never misses a note, and it expresses our every emotion--line, by line, by picture-perfect line.  You didn't just "relate" to her singing.
Watching her onstage, that little voice inside your heart seemed to find expression, as if a part of you became Dawn Sears, and vice versa.

The spell she cast was subtle enough that you didn’t really know what hit you, until it was all over.  NOT “every woman” can do that--and certainly not every singer.
'The Time Jumpers' at Station Inn
Photograph Copyright 2011 by Peter Rodman.
 By the time she’d get to her first bridge of the night, already tucked inside that voice of hers was a part of every beating heart inside the fabled box of stone and cement called ‘Station Inn.’ 

You could see it in each and every person’s eyes, as they locked onto the little lady on the stool, singing like it was nobody’s business...but yours.
For that one moment, the whole room ceased to have a crowd in it at all.
Instead, each soul had seemingly left, for another place altogether; a place which could only be found in the voice that took them there.  

Suddenly, every person in attendance had discovered that beautiful flower on the sidewalk, and forgetting everyone around them or where they had to be, they stopped.  They noticed.  They instantly loved it, to the exclusion of all other things, just for that one moment. 
They forgot about what they looked like, who they came with, when they were gonna go home, or even where they’d come from.  

Dawn Sears, Larry Franklin--onstage at 'The Station Inn'
Photograph Copyright 2011 by Peter Rodman.
All that mattered when Dawn Sears sang

was the gift of that moment...shared by one humble heart sitting on the little stool off to the side, her hands around a coffee cup or a water bottle,  communing with all the other hearts in the room, who'd completely forgotten where they were, transcending time and space and all of life's mundanities and indignities for a little, tiny moment of shared bliss.  
And when it was over, it actually took a moment to re-compose yourself, and drift back down to the here-and-now.  
At least, that’s how it felt for this particular heart.
I wouldn’t know how it was for you; I wasn’t paying attention.
There was a kind of magic in what Dawn Sears did.  

Hers was a humble beauty you didn't expect to find...until you found it. 
You might walk by it a hundred times, and never notice that wildflower in the sidewalk... but once you do, you’ve lived.

I never knew her personally, but like anyone else who witnessed her grace and immersed themselves in her wonderful voice, I sorta felt like I did.  Though not well known outside of Nashville, she'll never be forgotten by anyone who ever saw her perform.  Dawn Sears, one of the world's truly great singers, died at home last night in Gallatin, Tennessee, age 53.

Today seems like an unusually cold day.  
I might just go out looking for flowers, in unexpected places.

This column and all photographs herein are
Copyright 2014 by Peter Rodman. 
All Rights Reserved.