Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Laws – Try Love

Try Love
JML Music

I first encountered John and Michele Law – or The Laws as they later became known – back in 2000 when they sent me a copy of their first album, Estimated Time of Arrival. I enjoyed the CD, heard a lot of promise in them and their songs, and played it quite a bit on the radio show. Then, on May 31, 2001, they zipped into Montreal and we had a nice visit on the radio that included some fine live performances.

They’ve now released Try Love, their sixth album, a CD that goes a long way toward fulfilling the promise that I heard a decade ago. Their songwriting is strong (all but one of the songs is credited as co-written by John and Michele), their harmonies are exquisite, and their arrangements, which draw on folk, country and bluegrass influences, and are built on John’s guitar and Michele’s bass, are very tasteful. The only sideman is producer J.P. Cormier who variously adds keyboards, percussion, guitar, banjo and mandolin.

The album opens with the sweet duet, “I Believe in You.” With its references to love at first sight, music and the road, I would guess the song is a tribute to the Laws’ relationship and to the travelling musicians’ life they lead.

Among my other favourite tracks are “Rebel Cowboy Dream,” which Michele sings from the perspective of woman left behind by a man who left to pursue an impossible dream and now lives hand-to-mouth “picking up gigs a s a rodeo clown” and maybe spending the night with “what’s left when last call comes around,” and “Who’s Keeping Score,” a western swing tune that could almost be a response from the guy with the rebel cowboy dream.

Another favourite is their version of the Gordon Lightfoot classic “Wherefore and Why” that has Michele singing lead on top of straight-ahead bluegrass arrangement featuring some excellent banjo and mandolin playing by J.P. (One of J.P. Cormier’s best albums, by the way, is The Long River, his tribute album to Gordon Lightfoot.) The trio – John, Michele and J.P. – are back in full bluegrass mode on “Beer Mountain Rag,” the album’s lone instrumental.

--Mike Regenstreif

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