Lawson Rollins, Heartwood Review
Heartwood: A Harmonious Dance of Melody and Rhythm by Lawson Rollins
by Ferell Aubre
In his latest release, Heartwood, Lawson Rollins captivates listeners with an intoxicating fusion of melodies and rhythms that places his extraordinary six-string acoustic artistry at the heart of the experience. Rollins, celebrated as a Billboard Top 10 ranked world music guitarist and one of Guitar Player Magazine’s “50 Best Acoustic Guitarists” of all time, is admired for his distinctive sound, a harmonious marriage of classical influences and Latin jazz.
Heartwood blossoms like a rich tapestry of musical narratives, its threads drawn from the spirit of the heartwood of the guitar – Rollins’ chosen instrument. The album features an engaging medley of rumba, bossa nova, and samba rhythms, interwoven with graceful melodies and spontaneous improvisations. Flowing with Rollins’ versatility, the genre-bending approach of the album is soaked in maturity and virtuosity.
Rollins is accompanied by a cadre of esteemed musicians on the album, including Grammy-winning violinists Charlie Bisharat and Mads Tolling, veteran jazz saxophonist Mary Fettig, Brazilian percussionist Marquinho Brasil, virtuoso bassist Dan Feiszli, multi-instrumentalist Stephen Duros, keyboardist Michael Bluestein, cellist Joseph Hébert, and drummers Colin Douglas and Davo Bryant. This collaborative endeavor adds layers of depth and richness to the album, crafting a vibrant soundscape that highlights Rollins’ compositional brilliance.
“Sunlight Bossa Nova” bathes the listener in a soothing Bossa aura, the spirit of the song carried by the tender strumming of Rollins’ nylon-stringed guitar. His performance embodies a rare equilibrium between daunting technical prowess and an innate musical intuition that knows precisely when to let it loose and when to let the melody breathe. The composition unfolds like a novel, each section introducing a fresh mood, a new feeling, crafting an auditory journey that is as invigorating as it is diverse. Rollins’ music, in its radiant joyfulness, boasts a high degree of accessibility, extending an invitation to listeners of all backgrounds to revel in its embrace.
“Road to the Sun” continues this jubilant journey, with Rollins steering us down a sonic path illuminated by a captivating melody and an intricately constructed song structure. Here, the virtuosity of Rollins’ right-hand technique shines, effortlessly weaving complex tapestries of swift arpeggios and scale figures that pirouette around the main theme. The addition of Grammy-winning violinists Charlie Bisharat and Mads Tolling introduces a complementary voice to the arrangement, enhancing the sonic diversity of the track. The outcome is another universally resonant musical experience, a testament to Rollins’ ability to translate intricate musical ideas into a language that is universally resonant.
Rollins’ artistry is as much about the notes he doesn’t play as those he does. His approach to the guitar showcases restraint and discernment, avoiding needless complexity in favor of a refined balance between compositional sophistication, infectious rhythms, and passionate guitar performances.
Heartwood unveils Lawson Rollins as a world-class guitarist and composer. His extraordinary ear for melody resonates throughout the album, making Heartwood a delight for any listener, particularly those with discerning ears and a love for masterful guitar playing. Heartwood continues to broaden Rollins’ ever-growing fan base, offering a musical journey that is sure to satisfy, delight, and inspire.