Oregon farm boy, Jarrod Lawson is being hailed as soul’s “next big thing” and on the evidence of this debut, eponymous 12 tracker those musical prophets could well be right. Oddly maybe – given the hype – the long player hasn’t totally taken off despite being available on import. Now with an official release on soul specialist Dome we can expect it to dominate soul tastes for the rest of the year. Why? Well, quite simply the album is a remarkably complete and accomplished piece of work, touching all aspects of the soul genre. Little wonder that in the States, on the back of the album, Lawson has shared stages with Ronnie Laws, Bilal and the Average White Band, while a certain Stevie Wonder picked our man to play out at his birthday party!
Though brought up in Oregon, Lawson also spent many of his formative years at his father’s recording studio in California. There he not only explored his father’s record collection (which was heavy on Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway) but he also learned drums and keyboards. From there he went on to explore other musical genres –everything from Chopin to Chick Corea and all those influences (and many more… The Beach Boys, Marvin Gaye, Oscar Petersen, Joni Mitchell even Ravel) inform this album and they come together in the remarkable opening track, ‘Music And Its Magical Way’. Sonically and lyrically, it’s Jarrod Lawson’s mission statement. The cut’s jazzy, shifting rhythms are compelling and along with the multi-layered harmonies there is no alternative other than “to give in to the music”… a very strong opening.
The album finishes with the Stevie Wonder-ish ‘Gotta Keep’ and in between these poles there are countless delights. Amongst them ‘Spiritual Eyes’ – as ethereal and mystic as the title implies; the percussive Latin romp that is ‘Sleepwalkers’; the gentle ‘All That Surrounds’ (is that Keni Burke’s bass line in there?); and the ultra classy ‘Think About Why’.
A highlight throughout is Lawson’s piano playing. As a teenager he developed a near obsession with the instrument and he went on to study it classically, though, by his own omission, he hated the theory and really didn’t learn to read music. For him, (and many of his heroes) it was less about the learning, and more about the feeling; and that’s here in spades!
Jarrod Lawson will be touring in October to promote the album. The dates are; Ronnie Scott’s, London Saturday 4th October (Two Shows); The Wardrobe, Leeds ,Tuesday 7th October ; Band on the Wall, Manchester, Thursday 9th October.