Getting real as life goes on
Ten years ago, shortly after beginning work on a new album, a dog attacked musician Eddy Lawrence. It bit him on his left hand — the one that manipulates notes and chords on the neck of a guitar. That’s like a soccer player breaking his foot, or a singer suffering from chronic laryngitis.
“I continued to play electric guitar — I could sorta bluff my way through that,” Lawrence said. “But as far as acoustic goes, I was pretty much unable to play for seven months.”
He visited multiple hand surgeons and physical therapists throughout his recovery.
“One doctor told me, ‘you have to start playing now or you’re not going to be able anymore,'” he said. “The best thing for me to do was practice scales. I would spend three hours a day playing them all along the neck of a guitar. I started recording the acoustic portion of this album eight years ago, but it took me a while to get confident again. I simply didn’t feel like I was up to it yet.”
After more than a decade of work and recovery, Lawrence, who is originally from Alabama and now lives in Moira, has finally released his 10th studio album, “Eddy & the Abstract Truth.” It’s available on CD through Cd Baby and Amazon. Downloads and streaming will be available through Amazon, iTunes, CD Baby and Spotify.
“Eddy & the Abstract Truth,” is a record that highlights Lawrence’s poetic and thought-provoking lyrics while he plays classic American blues and folk instrumentation.
“Most of the albums I do have a focus,” he said. “I shy away from the word ‘concept.’ It just seems a little dated. These are mostly songs that deal with contemplations of mortality. I’m hoping it’s delivered in a lighthearted, good-natured way, but as a person who’s older than 60, the end of my life is certainly closer than the beginning.”
Lawrence started playing music as a child. He first got into classical violin at age 9 and picked up guitar shortly after. He also played in multiple bands throughout high school, before leaving his home state of Alabama in his early 20s.
“I lived in an area where the Appalachians met the Delta, so it really is a musical cauldron,” he said. “You’d have blues mixing with string bands, ballads, gospel and Native American music. It was a stew for all different genres. in addition to all the popular rock music that was coming out at the time.”
He eventually left the South and moved north to Manhattan where he played in a roots-rock band called LESR, which stood for Lower East Side Rockers.
“We played around the city at clubs like CBGBs in the ’80s,” he said. “This was when the whole alt-country rock thing was in its very beginning.”
While he recognizes Alabama as his state of origin, Lawrence said he never quite felt at place there.
“I lived through a lot in terms of cultural, racial and political turmoil,” he said. “When I was very young, I remember riding around in my parents’ car, and I looked out the window and saw another car with a bumper sticker that said ‘If your heart is not in Dixie, get your ass out.’ I think they were talking to me.”
This theme appears in the song “Red State/Blue Mind.” In the track, Lawrence describes going back home to witness his dying mother in a part of the country he had since left behind.
“Just before I left to go down there, I had posted the song on my Facebook page,” he said. “It wasn’t very friendly toward the alt-right.”
Along the way, he happened to cross paths with one of the more horrific social clashes in recent history — the 2017 Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which saw white supremacists and neo-Nazis fighting with counter-protesters. Heather Heyer was killed after alt-right supporter James Alex Fields Jr. ran over her in his Dodge Challenger, injuring 28 other counter-protesters in the process.
“On my way down, the Charlottesville thing happened,” Lawrence said. “My Facebook page started going nuts. People were arguing and making threats toward me. I was blown away by the reaction. And this was coming from folks all over the country, people I didn’t know.
“I guess the song is double-edged. I left the deep south for a reason. I felt politically and personally out of place. The blue mind is a reference to witnessing the death of a parent.”
On the first track, “Nine bar blues,” Lawrence delivers and dirty, old-school delta blues sound. But unlike gritty-voiced pioneers likes Robert Johnson and Son House, Lawrence is rather clean, and his clear diction is more akin to a singer like Liam Gallagher from Oasis. Every word is meant to be heard correctly.
“That sorta speaks to my double interest in music,” Lawrence said. “I’m really into that murky sounding blues and old country. There’s nothing I love more. But on the other side of my coin, I like well-written lyrics. A lot of times on older recordings, songs were re-purposed and having the lyrics clearly enunciated didn’t matter much. I’d say my lyrics are much more unusual for a traditional blues song. I have a strong opinion that music is truly meant to be listened to and not read. If someone has to consult a lyrics sheet, it would be a failure for me. The hope is that the whole story comes through clearly.”
After working the city for a while, Lawrence moved up north, detaching himself from the fast-paced urban environment. The third track on the new record is “New Renaissance Man,” which deals with the idea of people becoming more and more attached to technology. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter allow people to share views and opinions across the globe, but it does open up for aggressive disagreements than civil discourse in many instances.
“One of the lines in that songs is ‘I’ve got the world in my left hand,'” Lawrence said. “People always have their phones, and the world being in our left hand has gotten people fighting like a pit full of bulls. You always know people who feel differently from you about social issues, and for a long time, there was a bit of respect about not being in people’s faces — respectful dialog and not angry discourse. But in our post-post-modern world, as I call it, I look at younger people and how they’re experiencing the world completely different than my generation at that age.”
Lawrence moved upstate in the early ’90s, and since then he’s appreciated it as great environment for artists and creative thinkers.
“There are a lot of talented people in the North Country,” he said. “I find it a great place to work in and create. There maybe are not as many opportunities as living in a big city, but that can be misleading, too. In a medium-sized city, there are many, many more places for a person to play. However, developing a following is difficult. Up here, you get to know the people you perform for. I would way rather perform for a room of 80 or 100 people in the North Country than a full room in Washington D.C.
“It felt like home since I first got here.”