Signed to the MCA label a couple of years ago, Lawson recorded a rowdy album that went nowhere in Nashville's current hearth-and-home atmosphere. He now supposedly has another major-label deal in the works, but in the meantime he has recorded an album, The Acoustic Livingroom Session, on his own Galoot Music label. As the name implies, it features Lawson and his guitar, together with another string player and a bassist. They perform original songs and a great, raving, mandolin-and-slap-bass-driven cover of Leadbelly's wryly violent "Western Cowboy" (here retitled "When I Was a Cowboy"). The originals, a few of which (like "Redneck Love Gone Bad") tend toward the alternative country side, are mostly upbeat and sometimes, thanks to Lawson's voice, explosive.
Lawson's appearance at the Ark on Monday, April 5, doesn't necessarily signal an effort to develop a presence in the folk and acoustic music scene; most of the other stops on his current tour are at the likes of Bullfrogs Live in Topeka and Rabb's Steak and Spirits in Ruston, Louisiana. Instead, the Ark is offering something we almost never get to see in these parts: a hot new country talent, on the way up, in a small room.
[Originally published in April, 2004.]