Imagine if some mad scientist working for the Nashville office of a major record label created a cross between Marty Stuart and Mark McGrath, and you start to get an idea of what to expect from Shannon Lawson. Lawson shares Stuart's fondness for both traditional country flavors and up-tempo rock & roll, and like McGrath he's a high-attitude bad-boy type with the kind of photogenically unruly hair that's all the rage with marketing departments. Trouble is, judging from Lawson's debut album, Chase the Sun, Lawson falls short of Marty Stuart's chops and good taste; while his guitar and mandolin work are pretty good, his rock influences are strictly by-the-numbers, especially on the high-bombast "Who's Your Daddy" (which the overly polished production from Mark Wright only emphasizes), and his honky tonk and bluegrass gestures are neither strong nor original enough to make more than a surface impact (and no matter what Lawson thinks, his acoustic version of Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" is a fun idea, but it sure ain't bluegrass). And while Lawson's pipes are at least as good as Mark McGrath's, he lacks Mr. Sugar Ray's sly humor and easy (if hardly earth-shaking) grasp of musical eclecticism (which, given Lawson's attempted genre-hopping, would help a lot). And as a songwriter, Shannon Lawson suggests he has potential on several tunes here, but never enough to overcome his habit of wandering into clichés. Chase the Sun proves that Shannon Lawson has talent, but also suggests he got his record deal because he's easy to market rather than being better than his competition; maybe if this is a hit, listeners will get to hear a stronger and leaner presentation of his style in the future.
Chase the Sun Review
by Mark Deming