Lawson Rollins — Traveler

Feb. 6, 2015

The word that comes to mind when describing Traveler, this rich new project from guitarist Lawson Rollins, is big. Big on sound, big on worldliness, big on conceptual structure, and big on appeal.Lawson Rollins

Drawing from his many travels around this interesting planet of ours, Rollins lets it all shine through on each of the compositions here as he touches on the musical textures and cultures of France, Germany, Spain, England, and our own New York, California (San Francisco-style), and Louisiana.

As usual, he is adept at placing exoticism front and center on his Latin pieces. Now, in addition to Spain, he adds the vivid colors of other parts of Europe and, somehow finding that sweet spot between the red beans and rice, the jambalaya, and the crawfish, he nestles into a rhythmic Latin groove to provide some soulful grit from the very jazz-rich Louisiana. Of course, with “Marching West” and “Journey Home,” he remembers the comfort and abundance of California.

The track titles are so straightforward and apropos that you certainly won’t find it difficult at all to imagine yourself strolling along the streets of Paris, stopping at a quaint café, riding around Barcelona, or participating in a “Meeting in Madrid” over some intriguing meal or drink, serenely travelling “Across the Moors” in England, or dancing a bossa in Berlin.

The imagery is spectacular, but it’s only part of the picture as you listen to the trademark fluidity of Rollins’ playing, particularly in that Latin vein, which he manages to incorporate in most of the tracks, making for a very original approach to the music you experience here. He clearly “gets it” when it comes to grasping the substance of the various cultures and their individual and magical attraction.

Melody never being a problem for this guitarist whose music and style punctuate the allure of the caress of a good Latin tune, anyway, this album oozes with melody for sure. Tracks like the two tunes inspired by Spain (“Barcelona Express” and “Meeting in Madrid”) and other country-specific tracks like “Berlin Bossa” and “Café Paris,” among others, easily bear this out.

This is a comprehensive story of wonderful travels abroad and at home, told without words but with all of the power they hold. It’s a story of journeys on which you will wish you had accompanied Rollins, whether you’ve already been to some of the lands or not. Travelling with the guitarist would have to have been an indescribable treat. You can still experience that treat on this recording. It’s well worth your time. – Ronald Jackson