For a man toting the looks of Jason Mraz and the vocal charm of Lenny Kravitz expectations are set high for a debut release. Fortunately for Craig Lawrence, who happens to be just this type of man, he has met all expectations and then some. Lay It On The Line marks Lawrence’s debut release, an impressive 11-track album that falls somewhere between pop, acoustic, and soft rock.
Lay It On The Line opens with “All My Dreams Forgotten.” He offers listeners a soft, delicate track as the first introduction to his vocals. Lawrence thoughtfully positions “The One” next in line on the album, which displays his vocals in a similarly elegant, yet richer light. Complete with delicate string arrangements and loving, honest lines, this is the perfect song to dedicate to your partner.
The energy of the album picks up from there. The title track comes fourth on the album. It would serve well as a single for Lawrence since it is such a catchy track and his whole album is centered around the title. Its attractive melody makes it easy to picture it being played on a pop radio station somewhere. What’s interesting about it is that it contains not just pop characteristics but more specifically 90’s pop characteristics, as does much of his style.
There is a specific youthful, lighthearted approach Lawrence seems to take within his music and sound. He utilizes various avenues to create choruses carrying powerful hooks that find a way into your memory. He holds a fun, almost tropical sound close to his heart within this release, and the result is a sound similar to that of Jack Johnson. And the fact that much of Lawrence’s music revolves around his acoustic guitar further parallels the two artists.
“Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is” seems to either be a live recording or a layered effect done within the studio. The track begins with the cheering and clapping of a crowd. As one of the most upbeat songs of the album its melody does well to reel you in. The appeal of his melodies is strong for all of his tracks, though. “All I Really Want” and “Ruby Lights” are two more examples of this. Their charm doesn’t have anything to do with how lively they are as tracks. These two, as well as the final track which is listed as a bonus track titled “Secret Voice,” convey more causal, laid back moods. “All I Really Want” has a mature sound to it that isn’t too peppy, nor is it too mellow. It meets somewhere in the middle and brilliantly delivers a touching song about wishing to be with someone for the rest of their life.
Lawrence is as romantic and smooth-talking as Aaron Neville but as contemporary and fresh as Jack Johnson. Because of this there is an alluring mixture of both older and newer influences that flavor his work. Lawrence has not slipped up a single time within this 11-song release. Each of his songs will find a specific place in your heart for one reason or another. Whether it be with his romantic, persuasive lines or his captivating, moving melodies, he has hit the nail on the head with Lay It On The Line. Guys, if you a looking for a way to get back into your lady’s good graces; play her this album. Girls, if you are searching for the perfect man, look no further than Craig Lawrence.
Artist: Craig Lawrence
Album: Lay It On The Line
Review by Alec Cunningham
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)
Craig Lawrence is a pleasant summer surprise. Just releasing his fresh new album, Lay it on the Line, this past June, Lawrence is providing a dose of sunshine with this eclectic blend of indie laced folk music. Hailing from New York City, always a breeding ground for good talent, Craig’s music stands out in a very subtle way. Quickly on his way to becoming a New York staple, Lawrence is about to stun you with his knack for writing the perfect tune.
Warm strings fill the first track, “All My Dreams Forgotten,” as harmonies swirl in the background over a bed of strings. Lawrence’s voice is soft and comforting, even when he hits those louder notes. “The One,” is the next piece on the record and channels the likes of singer-songwriter, Jack Johnson, but with his own flare of course. The rhythmic pattern of the drums creates a hypnotizing beat that sets the mood for the song.
“Stay with Me,” is a jaunty track that will have you dancing around the room in no time. The upbeat piece is filled with bright acoustic guitars that slide and strum in harmony. Gentle hand-claps fill out the song as an unexpected keyboard solo takes place. A pleasant surprise for sure.
“Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is,” reminds me a bit of critically acclaimed Canadian musician, Sam Roberts meets a retro flare. Lawrence’s voice is flawless in this piece as it really draws in the listener. Immediately becoming one of my favorites on the record, the jazzy feeling of the track, infused with upbeat guitar strumming, is pure musical perfection.
The next song on the record is the slow and emotional track, “Let it Show.” With blissful vocals and a hint of sliding guitars creating a bit of Alt-Country tinge, it provides to be a nice little departure from the rest of the album. Channeling Ryan Adams, the songwriting in this song would possibly make Adams envious. “All I Really Want,” follows in the same vein, but proves to be even more sentimental and gentle in tone.
“Set Us Free” provides a nice retro feel to the record, almost as if it should have been played on 1970s AM Radio, which is indeed very flattering. The nostalgia flag feels like it is flying high on this one. “Ruby Lights” is a lovely song that really showcases Lawrence’s voice, more so than any other track on the record. With gentle female harmonies lying under the surface, the standout song provides a new light to Lay it on the Line.
Closing out the album is “Let Me In,” which says farewell in the gentlest way possible. Surrounded by a gorgeous string section, Lawrence provides a sultry croon throughout the track. The perfect way to end this stellar piece of work. Though for a little extra dose of Craig Lawrence, the bonus track “Secret Voice,” is also worth seeking out. With amazing guitar picking, either one of these songs make a great ending to the record.
Craig Lawrence’s Lay it on the Line is a beautiful album that will have you intrigued to hear more of this budding New York musician. It is safe to say that he is an artist worth watching out for in 2013. Lawrence really does lay his heart, soul, and music, “on the line,” with this stunning 10-track masterpiece. I can only hope to hear more soon.
Lay it on the Line
5 Out of 5 Stars
By Melissa Nastasi