Album Review of

Written by Robert Silverstein
September 8, 2021 - 12:49am EDT
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It's been a few years since Lawson Rollins’ Airwaves (best of) album so I’m happy to say he’s back with an all-new CD called Rise. The ten-track album combines the best of his contemporary World guitar style that blends jazz, New Age, World Beat, Nuevo and Rumba flamenco to great effect in an all-instrumental setting. The all-original lineup of tracks finds Lawson in the company of fine musicians, the ones who have played with him over the years, including string players Mads Tolling and Charlie Bisharat. Strings are prevalent throughout Rise, with Mads and Charlie on violin / viola and the addition of a pair of cellists. Also appearing on Rise are long time Rollins collaborators Stephen Duros (keys, guitars, drum programming) Davo Bryant (drums) and Dan Feiszli (bass) as are other guest artists including Jeff Pierre (backing vocals on two tracks) and Mary Fetting (saxophone). Speaking about recording Rise this past year, Lawson explains, “This album was forged during the unprecedented difficulties the world has seen over the past year, but as the Latin motto ‘Ad Astra Per Aspera’ proclaims, we can reach the stars through difficulty. It is that spirit that this album was made.”

For example track 5, “Escalate” is a devastating cross between Middle Eastern guitar exotics and Spanish Flamenco magic, while track 6, “Pulse” pushes Lawson’s unique-sounding World guitar vision to unbelievable heights. Track 7, “Carry The Torch” is yet another fine example that mixes Lawson’s acoustic and electric guitar skills to great effect. In fact, every track here features Lawson’sacoustic, electric and nylon string guitar wizardry which is often enhanced by his programming and keyboards, adding in further musical dynamics. If you appreciated Lawson’s earlier instrumental guitar masterpieces like Elevation (2011), Full Circle (2013) or any of his many other albums, Rise will seduce your ears. With 2021’s Rise, Lawson Rollins has created yet another album of contemporary guitar instrumental magic.