Set on a Hill
2009 / Hillset Records
Review by Michael Debbage
Chad Lawson will be a new name for many, however the pure quality and sincerity of this very peaceful and impressive debut may change all that in a heartbeat should listeners be patient to explore this remarkable pianist and composer. Produced by Will Ackerman, this is not the typical Ackerman production. There is Ackerman, engineer Corin Nelsen, Chad and his piano and over 48 minutes of delightful piano playing that will allow you to breathe and find peace in this hectic fast pace world that we live in.
Apparently Lawson’s background has included touring with Julio Iglesias, leading a jazz trio and even has involved him in other media outlets such as the soundtrack for the 2008 movie Dough Boys. However, Set on A Hill is something completely different and this is made obviously clear with Lawson’s opening nine minute epic “Will”. Though this move is commercial suicide, at the same time it is a daring and bold statement that completely works. The composition is moody, thought provoking and downright inspiring. Lawson’s stroke and touch is gorgeous and as a patient listener you will be fully rewarded to hear one of the best pure piano instrumentals heard in a long time. Equally as stirring but more direct is the shorter “Sojourn” and after the colossal “Will” it is perfectly sequenced.
After that there is nearly 35 minutes left of magical music with absolutely no filler. There is the more rhythmic “Set on A Hill” that will have you gently swaying back and forth. It has a slight majestic feel to it that would be fit to be played for a King. Speaking of royalty, Lawson gets personal and shares with his audience the song he wrote for his Queen courtesy of “She Walks In Beauty (The Wedding Song)”. One can only imagine his beloved purposefully and gracefully walking down the aisle in a beautiful flowing white gown ready to exchange eternal vows of lifetime commitment of love and honor before family and friends. In complete contrast, Lawson closes the album out with the playful “A Goldfish Named George”.
Chad’s intentions on this album are best summed up in his own words. He stated that “From the first note of the album, I wanted it to be one’s avenue to just breathe…to exhale. The album doesn’t “grab” you from the first note because we have enough things grab us as it is. So, I simply wanted to start with an invitation to peace.” Chad Lawson has been completely successful with this mission statement from start to finish. Simply put Set on A Hill is a quiet beauty that given the right exposure should make quite a few top lists for the year 2009.
August 5, 2009
Review by Michael Debbage