From Detroit to Pasadena, to the high seas and then back to Detroit; it’s only when singer/songwriter duo Emily Burns and Aaron Markovitz escaped the neon blitz and car-strewn concrete of the city that they discovered how well their music could bloom when they brought it back to the roots. There is so much life and vitality in the Americana-folk journeys of Escaping Pavement, sprung entirely from an acoustic guitar, a mandolin, and two voices. Fiery passion, wistful reflection, awestruck adventurousness, and heartstring-plucking poignancy, the duo discovers, through song, the range of human emotion and celebrates the purities of what we’ve left behind for the artifices of tech trends, drug stores and cacophonous city centers. Their romance together came only after they started singing songs together, having met in 2005, as teenagers, at an open-mic night. From there, they would continue collaborating in several other bands together, but they stepped up their game when they both got accepted to the Los Angeles College of Music. When they graduated, they hopped a cruise ship as part of a band running through covers of Top 40’s hits for waltzing baby-boomers. They came back to Detroit, but discovered that after two years of singing songs together on that cruise ship, for four hours a day, seven days a week, their singing voices had become fused into a perfect harmony. Started in 2012, Escaping Pavement released their debut, Uprooted in the summer of 2013, with the stomp of drums and the growl of the guitars giving it more of a blues-rock feel. However, soon after, Burns and Markovitz felt their inspirations being drawn toward the sounds of folk, country, bluegrass and Americana, and so Escaping Pavement became a duo, with unplugged string instruments, and centered on the surest magic of their musical collaboration, their voices in melodic unison. The grit and swagger of “Burn This Bridge” (from Uprooted) sounds a world away from “Fuel The Fire,” the lead single from 2016’s The Night Owl, where the eureka being shared by its two singers is palpable, that they’ve discovered their natural environment. That the music they make should, itself, sound like a natural environment.
The talent, the chemistry, the holistic mindset, it shines in every song. Burns and Markovitz have dismissed glitz and glamour, no amp feedback or laser light shows, no bandwagons hopped nor convoluted fusing of disparate subgenres; just the beauty of acoustic music and the warm rejuvenation of two vocal intonations that perfectly complement one another. The Detroit-Music-Award winning album, The Night Owl was released in summer of 2016, and songs like “Fuel The Fire,” “Derailed,” and “Mary” crackle and shine with the synchronicity they’ve built up over a dozen years together. With Escaping Pavement, we’re reminded about how vital of an instrument the human voice can be, how much a shared relationship manifests harmonic magic, and how restorative it can be, as a listener, to get back to the basics, the roots, the acoustic timbres and twangs, the elegance of which we may have forgotten while we were distracted by billboards, nightclubs and Instagram feeds… How wonderful it is, to escape the pavement, and get some dirt, and gravel under your shoes again. Have you escaped the pavement, lately?