Old Smooth 

The title itself better describes the texture of John Lawrence's first CD than anything else that could be said here.

Well, almost.

This is not a jazz album for jazz purists. Anyone who frowns reflexively at all post-Breezin' George Benson albums should move on. Read no further. This one is not for you. But if you appreciate a guitarist who delivers old R&B standards with a smooth-as-Johnnie Walker jazz touch and phenomenal technique, then please give this man a listen.

Lawrence, a native of Ypsilanti, protégé of the late Dr. Morris Lawrence -- a local musical giant, of no relation to John, who molded musical talent for years at Washtenaw Community College -- is probably one of Southeast Michigan's biggest musical secrets. And he'll not be residing in that shadow for much longer.

Those who have heard Lawrence can't help but recognize the man's remarkable abilities. Although God-given talent has a lot to do with that fact, so does his punishing work ethic. The fact that this CD is virtually a one-man production is just more evidence of that. Except for several tracks, Lawrence plays all the instruments on each song -- with the help of his trusty guitar synthesizer.

If there's one drawback to this release, it's the lack of any original material. Given Lawrence's abilities, it would have served him well to introduce himself with some of his own ideas. Hopefully we'll see some of John's own on John's next.

But regardless of that shortcoming, Old Smooth is still a very impressive CD debut.

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More by Keith A. Owens

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