Here was someone who knew Motown but was pretty handy on a mandolin; just the sort of...
Sue Keogh 2002
Record executives signed Shannon Lawson the second they saw him perform a bluegrass version of the Marvin Gaye classic "Let's Get It On". Here was someone who knew Motown but was pretty handy on a mandolin; just the sort of versatile musician they knew could sell.
Born in Kentucky, his multi-instrumentalist father bought Lawson his first guitar when he was just seven years old. In his teens he played Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin covers in a typical high school band, but somehow found that his country roots kept showing. "We'd be in the middle of Ozzy Osborne, and I'd play some Willie Nelson or Gene Watson song" he said. Later he joined a blues band and when that fell through started to hang out on the Kentucky bluegrass scene.
His eclectic musical background comes through in his songs. Produced by Trisha Yearwood and Lee Ann Womack's producer Mark Wright, Chase The Sun hedges its bets by being a bit rock, a bit pop-country, a bit bluegrass and a bit r'n'b, without really focusing in any one of these directions. This means that in one easy step the listener is taken from over-tight leather trouser attitude in "Who's Your Daddy" ("I'm a loaded pistol, my fuse is always lit") to the power-ballad "Slow Down Sunrise", with its sentimental talk of moonlight shining in his lover's eyes.
The bits in between these two extremes are more interesting. The title track and "Bad Bad Bad" are great fun, racing along a bit like Tim McGraw but with added mandolin. Superstar takes things down a key with smooth, laidback keyboards giving it an r'n'b feel, and on a sneaky final track which isn't listed he strips everything away for a minute's worth of gospel, comprising just his voice and hand claps for rhythm.
And then of course there's that brilliantly inventive interpretation of "Let's Get It On". I'm sure it never occurred to Marvin Gaye to play the hook on a banjo, performed here by the wonderful Ron Block from Union Station. The rest of the band isn't bad either, including Jerry Douglas on Dobro, mandolin wunderkind Chris Thile, Stuart Duncan on fiddle and electric guitar wizardry from John Jorgenson and Kenny Greenberg.
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