2020 / Infinita Records
Review by Michael Debbage
It has been over a decade since Lawson Rollins released his impressive debut Infinita back in 2008. Not including his two compilations and specialty album Dark Matter: Music For Film, this will be his seventh recording of original material. Needless to say, Rollins is not an artist who stands still but instead continually makes changes with his musical landscape. While his prior title 3 Minutes To Midnight had a sense of urgency and melodic sensibilities, this time around Rollins retains some of the commercialism sheen but quite effectively merges some of his old school musical style. As a result, True North reflects an artist that appears to be at complete ease within his continually growing artistic style.
Before the music even begins, the credits alone give a clear hint of the concise direct music you are about to be exposed to. With only four additional artists assisting Rollins with his music, the band is tight and cohesive with only Dave Bryant on drums and percussion as the remaining original member dating back to Rollins' 2008 solo debut. The band is supplemented with Mads Tolling on violin and viola, Dan Feiszli on bass and Stephen Duros on keyboards. Though Duros is also featured on the electric guitar on the second track “With The Wind”, heightening the song with an almost Santana feel to it. An interesting energetic track to follow up with after opening the album with the joyous exuberant title track “True North” that is indeed the most melodic and commercial song on the album.
The band aside, this latest impressive album is about Lawson Rollins' impeccable songwriting, performing and his first effort of being in the producer chair all alone for the first time at least as far as original recordings are concerned. He had previously partially completed this task on his 2018 compilation Airwaves: The Greatest Hits (and the previously mentioned specialty album), that features many radio edited versions of the original tracks along with two bonus tracks never heard before. This includes the spectacular “World Of Wonder” featuring the band 3rd Force that alone is worth the price of admission. For those of you less familiar with him, this would be a perfect place to catch up with Lawson.
Back to the current album, True North continues to reveal something old and something new the former well represented by the cross rhythms and world pulse found on “Bluewave Bossanova” and the simmering sway of “South Beach”. This is in utter contrast to the more mysterious and progressive feel found on “Dead Ahead”. That sense of mystery continues on the more reflective “Yearning To Know” featuring Rollins' acoustic and electric guitar interplay with Mads Tolling’s string performance that works close to perfection. Even moodier, check out the gorgeous slow churning hues found on “In The Shadows”. However, Rollins makes sure that he ends the album with the energetic closer “The Winding Road” bringing another solid Rollins recording to conclusion.
While True North appears to have an artist completely comfortable in his own musical skin, though new elements are presented Rollins is also very aware of the recording styles of his past too. With this being his seventh recording of original material (not including his two-compilation albums and his previously mentioned specialty album), it appears that the elevation of this artist continues, but he has partially come full circle while still being a musical traveler. This exploration comes with an infinitive amount of spirit as he continues to explore his true north with or without the need of compass. Just another solid recording that Lawson Rollins can be proud of and that his followers will fully embrace.
April 4, 2020