Friday, May 22, 2015

Greg Laswell--- Through Toledo

This is part of a series I will be reposting I call the Hall of Fame reviews.  These will consist of albums which are firmly entrenched in my DNA, being either unique or beautifully put together or more than likely both.  Greg Laswell's Through Toledo album qualifies in both areas.  This review originally written for and posted on the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange website.

If Greg Laswell wasn't a throwback to the '70s he might be just another singer/songwriter, but he has the heart and soul of the best the early '70s had to offer--- Paul Simon to Jackson Browne to Jim Dawson and Jim Post. At first, I thought it was the lyrics but I slowly came to realize it is deeply embedded in Laswell himself. This is good music only partially because of the music. It is good because what we get is not just musician and music, but musician stripped bare by tragic circumstance and rebuilt through monumental emotional struggle. Ah, the good ole days.

So, who is Greg Laswell? He's a San Diego musician who for the past few years has supported much of the music scene by backing those ignored by a music industry more worried about intellectual property than music. Much of what he did previously was released on his own Twenty Inch label ( I shall be doing extensive searches as soon as I'm done typing this) and things seemed to be trucking right along until he was blindsided by his wife, who left home one day and just never returned. Her choice, of course, but one Laswell did not see coming. It changed him.

For the next few months, he put together the songs available here. What kind of songs? Well, he fluctuates between light folk themes and wall of sound power pop so effortlessly you find yourself wondering who the hell is this guy and why have we not heard of him. He writes, he sings, he produces and does all, judging from this album, exceedingly well. His use of acoustic guitar and piano make his good songs exceptional and his exceptional songs amazing. He fits the music to his voice well and that voice, well, there is something beyond just hitting the notes here (which he does). There is a texture, if you will, and it adds that extra dimension to songs, sometimes making chords vibrate with astounding depth.

There are numerous high points, not the least of which is the title track. Through Toledo captures that cross between today's music and that of '70s yesterday, tripping lightly at a 6/8 clip, a slight jazz riff beneath a beautiful melody voiced so easily and carried majestically along with classy production. Since hearing this, I find myself yearning to drive up San Fransisco (sic) Bay on a regular basis. If you want rock, I'm Hit gives you plenty, a wall of pop fuzz guitar supplying the base for assembly line rhythms and a perfect vocal chorus. Laswell reaches way down and lays out soft acoustic piano in High and Low, a plaintive cry for the love he lost, and he takes it that one step further by ending in a sort of symphonic coda, a heart-rending and beautiful musical picture of what once was but is no more.

You really have to hear this to understand. He floats, he rocks, he struggles and he makes it all work. He even crunches, albeit in a melodic power-pop Oasis kind of way, and it's all good. To my ears, it is beyond good. And I'm stuck. I have other CDs to review and an article to write and I can't get Greg Laswell's music out of my head. Actually, now that I think about it, that is good. At this moment, I'd rather hear Laswell than all of the pretenders out there. He has the goods. Buy this CD."

(Frank Gutch Jr. writes and has written for numerous magazines and websites, presently including this blog, his own website and the prestigious Don't Believe A Word I Say site put together by musician and music pundit Bob Segarini, out of Toronto. He specializes in the Indies, having fought hand-to-hand combat with major record labels for decades (talk about zombies). He believes music should be the core of the music business, though business it mostly be, and denies the accepted reality in the stead of the artistic one. Seldom does he receive pay for articles and/or reviews and believes that there is no place for negatives in a world in which one cannot keep up with the positives. He is, in a sense, a lost soul in a sea of music, drowning, but drowning gratefully.)

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