Traditional country and folk influenced character songs without a hint of pedal steel guitar.
There is no sign of the difficult second album syndrome about Michael Paul Lawson’s ‘Love Songs For Loners’ which comes three years after his folk-orientated debut album. He is still using his real-life experiences to inform his character-based storytelling songwriting and he has broadened his musical palette to include traditional country. Helping him achieve his new sound is producer, and ex-Wilco drummer, Ken Coomer who played drums and recorded the album over five days at his own East Nashville Cartoon Moon Studios. Also on hand was Laur Joamets from Drivin’ N Cryin’, and bassist for hire Billy Mercer, with occasional Hammond B-3 organ from Michael Webb. Michael Paul Lawson is an Austin resident and while he is influenced by and knows the music of the South, he was brought up in New York which adds an additional perspective to his songwriting and brings a modern feel to his music, even though the sound is heavily influenced by the past. Country is not the only traditional characteristic of ‘Love Songs For Loners’ which contains eight songs and is the length of a traditional vinyl album which allows listeners to really listen to the whole album in these days of limited attention spans. The small group of musicians and the five day recording schedule mean the sound retains some of the energy of a live performance and adds to the sense of retro style.
The first track takes us to a comforting bar that distracts from the real challenges of life while not solving any of the underlying problems as Michael Paul Lawson confirms ‘I Know Where I’m Going Tonight’. Next, we have a short story about a partner who hasn’t completely moved on and how our protagonist tries to understand how the next man in her life would feel if he knew what was happening in ‘The One Before The One’. ‘Lucille’ has featured quite a bit in music over the years, here she helps ask the question of what if. If you are an upstate New Yorker, then you will appreciate the significance of ‘Snow’ with a musical backing that has a good dollop of Texas swing and that lets Laur Joamets cut loose on his guitar. The maple trees of the Mohawk Valley inspired ‘Maple’ which uses a dream to explore obsessive love. ‘Baltimore’ is the first song to be recorded for ‘Love Songs For Loners’ and questions the meaning of real love through the lens of long distance affairs. The social and political impact of the pandemic and social distancing is considered on ‘849’. The loss of youthful innocence is explored on ‘Varick Street’ with the conclusion that everyone needs to learn to love the now.
With ‘Love Songs For Loners’ Michael Paul Lawson builds on the momentum of his debut album. He is able to use his personal experience to craft story songs that explore the human condition. He has managed to increase the traditional country in his music and brings his country croon to the fore without feeling the need to include pedal steel, banjo, or mandolin as part of his musical backing. He may wear his influences on his sleeve, but he seems determined to continue to develop his own voice.
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