(Big Book Records, 2015)
Richie Lawrence is a founding member of Rotondi and The Loose Acoustic Trio, accordion and piano sideman to I See Hawks In LA and Ray Bonneville, with four previous releases on Big Book Records: 'Brand New Mind', 'Sorrow Be Gone', 'Melancholy Waltz', 'Water' and now 'Rue Sanxay'.
This ten songs containing new album is rendering a gentle and insistent voice while retaining a fundamental honesty. Eclectic American Music featuring new love, family love, Bayou love, Parisian love, New York love and eternal pining.
Fresh from acclaimed single release Winter Solstice homage, “Over and Over”, from Big Book Records comes 'Rue Sanxay', the third solo recording by piano player, accordionist and singer-songwriter Richie Lawrence.
Richie Lawrence was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when Eisenhower was president, and that was just fine with Tulsa. Richie grew up as a townie and a country boy, spending summers cowboying on the family’s grassland homestead. He became best friends with the family’s 1917 Model AIII Steinway Grand Piano, which he plays to this day. Richie got deep into the blues and roots music, self-taught from vinyl, absorbing the styles of Professor Longhair, Otis Spann, Jerry Lee Lewis and Garth Hudson.
Upon surviving high school, young Lawrence wound up in 1970’s Colorado, when bands were paid to play, rock musicians ruled the earth, and you could still drink from mountain streams. Freedom reigned. Acquiring a BFA in art history at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Richie also took his knocks in the College of Musical Knowledge, in local groups, such as the Ray Bonneville Blues Band, opening for and absorbing Willie Dixon, Mance Lipscomb, John Hammond, and The Ramones.
1980 brought the big move to Los Angeles. Richie’s first recorded song and session playing was released in ’81 with The Tim Goodman Band, on Columbia Records. The LP, produced by John McFee, featured every member of the Doobie Brothers and the incomparable Nicky Hopkins. Fame and fortune didn’t quite happen, but Richie got to open for and hang with Bonnie Raitt, Steve Goodman, Crystal Gayle, America and George Thorogood.
In 1983 Richie met guitarist / songwriter Paul Lacques and the two would work together for the next seven years in that uniquely creative and crazy theatrical Polka extravaganza called Rotondi. Richie would finally learn to play his uncle’s accordion liberated from Germany in WWII. The Rotondi exploit garnered, for both Richie and Paul, Los Angeles DramaLogue Awards for Best Music, and thousands of fans across the country. The band would release four CDs and appear on every major television network of the day: ABC, CBS, NBC, as well as Fox, HBO, and NPR’s Weekend Edition. Three U.S. tours and many festivals led to meeting, jamming, or hanging with The Neville Brothers, David Lindley, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Doug Sahm, Little Richard, David Byrne, Timothy Leary, Brave Combo and polka kings Jimmy Sturr and Eddie Blazonczyk.
Love and work brought Mr. Lawrence to Sacramento, CA in 1994. He married the beautiful Katie Thomas and joined the traditional cowboy folk music experience called Horse Sense, with Justin Bishop. On the rosters of The USIA, The Western States Arts Federation, and The Los Angeles Learning Tree, musical tours were made to El Salvador, Indonesia, Germany, Poland, many of the United States and more schools than one can count. Collaborating with the likes of cowboy poets Paul Zarzyski and Wally McRae, and playing The Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, were beyond inspirational.
2004 brought The Loose Acoustic Trio and partnering with fellow writer and bedpandolin player Ken Cooper and bassist Steve O’Neill. The LAT’s debut CD, 'Brand New Mind' (2005), inspired the inaugural release and creation of Big Book Records. With no reviews and no help, The Trio’s first CD was able to reach #27 on the Freeform American Roots (FAR) chart and wander into a few TV productions. The Trio honed their sound at Farmers Markets and entered the big time with The California State Fair.
Big Book Records scored a memorable twin release, on May 20, 2008, with the second record by The Loose Acoustic Trio, 'Sorrow Be Gone', and the fourth CD by Southern California country rockers, the indomitable I See Hawks In LA, founded by Paul Lacques and Rob Waller. Things come full circle as Richie Lawrence and Paul Lacques once again combine artistic forces.
In 2010 Richie Lawrence launched his solo career with 'Melancholy Waltz' and followed with 'Water' in 2012.
In between solo projects, 'Melancholy Waltz' and 'Water', Lawrence made time for some outside work, recording tracks on two I See Hawks In LA CDs, 'New Kind Of Lonely' (2012) and 'Mystery Drug' (2014) as well as Ray Bonneville’s latest, 'Easy Gone' (2014), and is heavily featured on the upcoming Earthworm Ensemble CD. Richie is currently touring with Ray and I See Hawks In LA, and will be touring to support his own new album, 'Rue Sanxay', showing fans his serious, musician / singer / songwriter side, with the help of his fellow Yolos. Lawrence states, “These songs are important to me. I want people to hear them.”
'Rue Sanxay', the new release from musician / songwriter Richie Lawrence, is a flat out love fest: new love, old love, New York love, Parisian love, Bayou love and eternal pining. Typical of Lawrence’s ever-eclectic gamut of song, one finds both lyric and instrumental tracks. Tunes emerge from a sublime melancholy, a wry sense of humor, and honesty.
Richie’s debut 'Melancholy Waltz' relied on solo instrumental music, stark and haunting. 'Water', the second record, was cut with his band The Yolos. 'Rue Sanxay' draws from both and takes a step further. With four rocking instrumentals in Cajun / Zydeco, French Waltz, Jazz Trio, and Classic Ragtime styles, only the "Tribute Rag" is solo piano. Two are with fellow Yolos, Scott Prawalsky on upright bass and Bart van der Zeeuw on drums.
The real departure comes with three beautiful lead vocals by Katie Thomas: "When I Find My Love Someday", "Play On" and "Oxford Town". "Play On" and title track "Rue Sanxay" are co-written by Richie and talented longtime musical cohort Paul Lacques (I See Hawks In L.A., Double Naught Spy Car, Rotondi), who plays guitar on 'Rue Sanxay'. "Oxford Town", the sole cover, is penned by great blues troubadour and old friend Ray Bonneville.
'Rue Sanxay' was recorded by the newest Yolo, talented on all things stringed, Matt Baxter, at the fabulous Baxter’s Ranch Recording studio in Auburn, CA. Listen for these other featured master musicians: Shawn Nourse, Matt Baxter, Josh Rabie, Pete Grant and Wayne Wallace!
Richie’s musical backdrop creates the foundation for the varied genres that weave through his songs - styles absorbed, refashioned and born anew. Attending the opera with his grandparents at hometown Tulsa municipal theater; listening to country music permeating the Oklahoma airwaves; digging big band swing and Ray Charles with his father Richard Sr., also a pianist; older sister Elvis immersion; attending a 1965 concert with James Brown opening for The Rolling Stones; hanging with Chicago musicians and being initiated into the living blues; moving to Los Angeles, meeting Paul Lacques and together forging a new wave polka music in Rotondi; touring the world with cowboy folk music purveyors, Horse Sense; plying the Farmers Markets of the central California Valley with The Loose Acoustic Trio; and a new partnership with Ray Bonneville - all define a rainbow of beautifully rendered song colors. If there’s a niche here, the category Americana comes to mind, but in the broadest sense of the word. Enter the eclectic music wonderland according to Richie.
1. "When I Find My Love Someday": A pedal steel riff (played by guest Pete Grant), Richie's classic piano and then the lovely Katie Thomas surprises us with her leadvocals in this sweet little country waltz. Much later Richie starts singing a beautifully blended harmony vocal. Matt Baxter is the guitarist on this track.
2. "Over And Over": Ah, trombone... I love the trombone! Wayne Wallace is guesting here, with his instrument, for a slow duet by Richie and Katie, set around Christmas and New Year's. The Yolos sound like a proper jazz trio here, Scott Prawalsky on bass and Bart van der Zeeuw on drums. (Bart has a typical Dutch name and spells it in the original way, not Americanizing it to 'VanderZeeuw' or something.)
3. "Belle Lune": Josh Rabie on fiddle for an upbeat instrumental, Louisiana style, a Cajun Two Step. Richie plays his accordion, of course. I absolutely love it! I could enjoy a full album with music like this. Favorite with a capital F.
4. "Play On": The accordion stays for this wonderful arrangement, Matt Baxter is back -on mandolin this time- for a romantic ballad, sung by Katie, with Richie providing the harmony vocals. Oh yes, when you're in love, every love song on the radio is for the two of you! Co-written by Paul Lacques.
5. "Rue Sanxay": A little French accordion waltz, instrumental, so it leaves us the freedom to dream about warm Summers in France, sleepy towns with old buildings around the market square. Co-writer Paul Lacques plays the guitar and Shawn Nourse the drums on this track. The melody floats on and on...
6. "Oxford Town": A piano ballad, written by Ray Bonneville. Scene is set in a lonely hotelroom. Katie sings another duet with Richie on harmony vocals.
7. "Vanguard": A relaxed jazz instrumental with a leading part for Richie's classic piano.
8. "Oscar Wilde's Middle Name": The accordion is back for this catchy, upbeat, tongue-in-cheek song. Richie Lawrence takes the leadvocals here and Matt Baxter adds the guitar.
9. "Tribute Rag": If you want to hear the piano by itself, 4m24s long, this is your track: ragtime!
10. "Come Back": Richie closes the album with a remarkable song, as lead vocalist and pianist in a fine Fats Domino vibe. Katie sings her harmonies and Matt plays guitar.
This isn't exactly the first time music by Richie Lawrence circles in my CD-player. I just love a good 'keyboard lion'! (That sounds so much better in Dutch: 'klavierleeuw'.) And the accordion is one of my favorite instruments. I want to recommend ALL the works involving Richie, solo or with The Loose Acoustic Trio or with I See Hawks In L.A.
On this fine album 'Rue Sanxay' Richie serves us a deliciously varied buffet of eclectic music. A must-have for fans of the keys: piano and accordion. I just hope Richie will sing a bit more again, on his next record. If you want to hear a true professional, listen to Richie Lawrence!
Written & compiled by Johanna J. Bodde - May 19th, 2015.