Lawrence County - The Frailty Of Humans
There's not a lot we know about Nottinghamshire based Lawrence County, it's a band rather than a person and emerged from a previous incarnation the unlikely named DH Lawrence & The Vaudeville Skiffle Show, but with this beautifully titled collection of songs that might be about to change.
The album opens with "They're All There", a double bass and drum beat open out into a pure Americana sound with fiddle and guitar eventually playing for nearly forty seconds before the vocal kicks in, and when it does it is an almost lazy drawl. The verses paint a veritable cast of different characters in the local pub described by a man sat with his DH Lawrence novel "looking at me". Each person may be sketched with just a short sentence but it enables the listener to build up a mental picture of the scene being surveyed.
"The bare knuckle fighter from the old Goose Fair", "the fellow with the femme fatale, he just got out of hospital"
It's a place where "there's a piano that no-one plays everybody got to have their say" and just listen out for the detail in the playing that comes with "The guy with the vintage gee-tar! - it's a neat touch. The chorus consists of a male voice singing "They're all there" backed up by a female explaining "in the bar in the local bar". There is a stark contrast between the Americana sound and the native Nottingham vocals but the results are intriguing and a great introduction to the band as well as possibly being one of the better songs you'll hear all year!
"Black Sally" the sad tale of a girl "who wouldn't marry" is an uptempo guitar fiddle tune that comes with an immediately accessible if downbeat chorus and certainly a downbeat ending, a theme that also rears its head throughout the record, like with poor old "Lucy Wan" who is decapitated and then left in 3 parts! Keeping the theme of each song being completely different from its predecessor, "Licquor In The Corn" is a bluesy, boozy number sung in an almost inebriated voice. With the band again mainly echoing the last words of the lead singer it has a an gospel feel to it, and even finds times to include some stormy sound affects.
Things slow even more with "By The Briar", a ballad, sung almost as a duet with the female voice tracking the main vocal. At all times "Lawrence County" have a keen ear for a tune, "Dry Stone Wall" has a chorus that effortlessly grabs your attention and comes with a delightful piece of fiddle playing. A harmonica intro take us into "The Loner", the slow incessant tune, the backdrop for another strange dark series of events "He never did any harm he never did any good" well certainly not until he goes to the barbers and puts a bullet into everyone there.
"Bye Bye Americae" seems a little out of place on the album, in the sense that against the old time Americana sound comes a searing verdict on the current US President, who even makes a number of soundbite appearances. With mariachi trumpets and a refrain of "the president is lying and Disneyland is dying" this is as strident a criticism as i've heard from anyone over the four years of his tenure. Musically it is pretty unique, you'll never hear anything quite like like it again in terms of inventiveness, its biting withering lyrics or the overall use of sound.
"Goldfish In The Jar" is another slightly off beat track for a couple of reasons, first of all it is a more overt folky song than anything else on the rest of the album, and secondly it is the one song led by Charlotte Pynegar on lead vocals. It is a delightfully sweet recounting of a visit to a local country fair and simply quite beautiful.
"The Frailty Of Humans" never ceases to amaze throughout its duration "Lights Go Out", is a wonderfully warm piece of ensemble playing with delicate vocals while "I Don't Sing Country Anymore" is of course sung to a country tune, "because country is full of cliche" which are then laughingly listed "My poor little girl left town, my little dog just drowned!" It's a bit of a hoot with an almost honky tonk bar room piano solo in the middle.
This is certainly a record worth checking out, it's range is far reaching and for lovers of folk, Americana and great ensemble playing there is something here for you.. Lawrence County would surely have found slots at a number of festivals this summer off the back of this record but for events overtaking the world, as this will surely translate well into a live environment,