Going to Water

Five Dollar Indian
Turtles
Your Own Frontier
El Barzón
Four Faces
Going to Water
As a Broken Arrow
The Most Universal Solvent in the World
Radio Bingo
Catching a Dream
A Trade for Life
Gravity
Birdtown

 

Going to Water

2001  (CD)

Lawrence has always been a brilliant, quirky writer. In his first incarnation, he single-handedly accomplished the redemption of white trailer trash, with a knack for spinning wild unlikely tales in the best southern gothic tradition. With this album, Lawrence has discovered his Native American identity in a big way. In "Turtles," he throws out every easy belief system and, clanless himself, chooses from among the families of animal fetishes. He draws heavily on the natural world and Indian crafts throughout, finding in these images a way to define himself and his path. In "Going To Water" he tells the story of his people's conversion in order to rebaptize himself in a daily ritual that is more sustaining. "The Most Universal Solvent In The World" is a different sort of celebration of water, a wild litany of its manifestations.

Lawrence's willingness to lay bare the emotions of a man living without purpose or direction is balanced by his wit and unquenchable humor. Through it all, he shares a vast knowledge of Indian lore and history, not so much to preach or protest but to understand. The result is a very focused collection of songs that explore the paradox of a rich spiritual tradition and social disintegration by poverty, alcohol and a trail of broken promises. By the end of the CD, you feel that both you and Lawrence have made a journey together, one that is both personal and historical. We may be born into a culture, a people, a clan, but in the end we have to recreate it and ourselves if we are to find any sustaining power in identity. Here, he goes from "Five Dollar Indian" to musical shaman.

Going To Water is fully and seamlessly produced, with acoustic and electric guitar, mandolin, harmonica and a range of appropriate percussion. Remarkably, Lawrence wrote, performed, recorded and mixed everything himself.

Hugh Blumenfeld
Sing Out!
Winter 2001

Excellent songwriter and musician. Potent lyrics and memorable melodies. Eddy Lawrence brings us fourteen tracks in tribute to his Cherokee heritage. His style reminds me a little of Jackson Browne, but Lawrence cuts a pretty original sound. This album is more rock than folk, with Eddy laying out some pretty hot electric guitar in addition to electric bass, mandolin, Casio organ, and a variety of rhythm instuments. He does a good job of mixing it all up. "Four Faces" is an angry ode to Mount Rushmore: "Four faces look down from a mountainside/ In the sacred land of the seven council fires/ Where the Lakota roamed and the buffalo died/ Where the AIM fought the FBI/ Four faces look down stony and still/ Four white faces carved in the Black Hills/ Four faces look down from up in the sky/ Four great white fathers telling great white lies".

Marilyn O'Malley
Victory Review
November 2001

It may just be my age but, as I listened to Eddy Lawrence, I got to thinking about Marvin Rainwater. The more I think about Rainwater, the more I can see similarities between the two artists. The more I explore the work of Lawrence, the more I can see the differences. It's an interesting exercise to compare a talented new writer and performer with a star of years past.

Marvin Rainwater is a Cherokee Indian, full-blooded as far as I know. Eddy Lawrence is half-Cherokee. The songs of both artists make some reference to their ancestry. Marvin Rainwater was making rockabilly hits back when artists like George Jones and Buck Owens were still singing rock and roll. Eddy Lawrence rocks with the best of them. The pop country song "Gonna Find Me A Bluebird" gave Marvin Rainwater world-wide fame. Songs like "Birdtown" and "Radio Bingo" by Eddy Lawrence have that same pop music feel. "As a Broken Arrow" is pure country.

Forty years later, the world in which Rainwater wrote and performed seems a whole lot simpler than our 21st Century world. Accordingly, his songs tended to have simple straightforward themes. They were popular songs not meant to evoke a lot of deep thought. A closer look at the lyrics of Eddy Lawrence reveals a philosopher's mind at work. Here's an educated man taking a wry look at the world around him. While most of the songs work well on a pop music level, to unravel some of the references in the songs may require at least a Bachelor's degree. Lawrence's lyrics are rich with the history of America from the perspective of the First Nations and the love/hate relationship between them and the Europeans who had overflowed their shores.

Lawrence's songs fall somewhere into that genre of countrified rock and roll inhabited by artists like Tom Petty and Bruce Hornsby. It's hardcore rock and roll music overlaid with thoughtful lyrics and melodies that have a large country element. Ignoring for a moment the political and social activism that infuses most of these lyrics, this hard-driving music should be popular both on the reservation and off, both in the country and in the city. Beneath the words, this is just plain good rock and roll.

According to the notes, Lawrence wrote all of these songs. "Radio Bingo" caught me by surprise. It sounds like a medley of something Lawrence wrote and another song, the two melodies interweaving. Early into this bilingual (Cherokee and English?) song, I started to hear the oft-covered 1931 song "Dream a Little Dream of Me" covered in large sections of both the melody and the guitar lead. The first time I listened, it took me a while to realize that this song was actually about playing bingo and not seduction.

"El Barzón" is a quirky, wonderful confusion of popular music and Economics 101. This politically-informed lyric relies heavily on allusions to the influential 18th Century Scottish economist and social philosopher Adam Smith to create a metaphor for the historic financial inequities between the European newcomers and the original natives of North America. If you don't know about the economic theories of Adam Smith and his "invisible hand" and if you don't have enough Spanish to understand that El Barzón refers to the yoke of debt, then this lyric may not make a whole lot of sense. It doesn't matter. The bright Tex-Mex music with its thump-thump rhythm carries the mysterious lyric effortlessly along. This political song will sneak up and catch the listener somewhere in mid-groove.

With a lyric imbued with clan mysticism, political philosophy, and not so subtle activism, "Turtles" rolls over the musical landscape with a rock steady reggae rhythm that seems unstoppable. It's a song that manages somehow to provoke the listener to both thought and dance. A neat trick, that.

The lyrics are dense and rich with imagery and history. These well-written lyrics bear a closer listen or a very close read. The music, ranging from pop country to hard rock and roll is extremely listenable. It should get play not just on niche stations at colleges and on the reservation, but on radio stations everywhere that play the best music. Every song is as good as the next.

Bob Mackenzie
Sound Bytes
July 2005

Going to Water is a Native Rock CD brought to you by Eddy Lawrence, Cherokee. Interesting lyrics and a variety of instruments compliment his voice and make this an easy CD to listen to. For some new tunes, listen to "Four Faces" and see if it strikes a chord with you. A strong song gently sung for the Native peoples of America today. If you missed bingo today, then pop this in and listen to "Radio Bingo", it will give you a boost. Well, there is even music you can dance to, hum if you like, HOEWAH, you can even learn what "The Most Universal Solvent in the World" is. Listen and enjoy.

Karen Donahoewah
News From Indian Country
October 2001

Why haven't I heard of Eddy Lawrence before now? A lot of reviewers have been hip to him for some time, and his press kit is full of wholly justified praise. He excels at everything a music critic looks for. His songs are told in one of two narrative styles the one best utilized to talk to someone else or the one best utilized to talk to one's self and no one is more a master of those styles than Eddy Lawrence. His vocabulary is yours, plus a few words you knew when you were at your best and will remember when he uses them in his songs.

Instrumentation could be a weighty topic, as Mr. Lawrence plays everything on this record. For openers, I think he can please the whole spectrum of listeners from acoustic folk purists to hard rock junkies somehow, without offending or disappointing anyone along the way.

To the extent that the record is retrained by theme, Going to Water is about Mr. Lawrence's Native American roots. "Five Dollar Indian" talks about the stew that goes into a modern American with some ancient American blood, and about some of the confusions that go with that position. He goes on to explain a totem pole to us in "Turtles," leads contemporary worship services within a primitive nature worship religion in "Our Elder Brother," "The Most Universal Solvent in the World" and "Birdtown," visits a reservation casino in "Catching a Dream," then uses his winnings to pay capitalist interest in "El Barzon." In other Going to Water songs, his visions are equally different, though at times not so deeply rooted in Native American perspective.

Anglos often expect a Native American perspective to include bitterness, if not outright anger and hatred. That's not Eddy Lawrence's medicine bag. The Earth is here to be worshiped. If it is physically and spiritually polluted right now, it is still the Earth, and thus, still to be worshiped. Hey, this record was recorded with solar power.

His voice is not great, but it carries both melody and rhythm extremely well, constantly evoking the "tom-toms" in listeners' minds. His drumming is serviceable, his bass playing unique, his guitar solos great in that Chuck Berry way that is always willing to sacrifice a little musicality for the sake of essential Rock. He can also play sophisticated, pretty and complex passages when appropriate to his songs. Mandolin is tasteful, harmonica, percussion items and keyboards adequate, and mixing (this is one self-reliant musical communicator) something most other players can learn from and emulate to their benefit.

Going to Water is a great record in every way and a breathtaking introduction to possibly the finest musical storyteller I have ever heard.

Arthur Shuey
Word on the Street (on-line magazine)
March 2002

Every once in a while, I get an album from someone trying to talk about the American Indian (or Native American, whichever you prefer) experience. Often these folks try to incorporate whatever "native" sounds they have come across, and the whole mess generally comes off as sanctimonious and somewhat artificial.

Eddy Lawrence is dead straightforward with his lyrics. He pulls few punches and generally lays his ideas right on the line. He drops these thoughts into regular rock and roll, stuff that pulls in touches of the blues, reggae, country, tejano and just about everything else that rockers have assimilated over the years.

Bit of an irony there, right? Yeah, and I think it's kinda intentional. After all, Eddy Lawrence uses his given name. He's been assimilated himself. And when he sings of times gone by, of deeds done wrong by the leaders of the U.S. (and the Spanish, and...), he has a wry, observational tone that highlights the hypocrisy without preaching.

Like I said, Lawrence doesn't shy away from tough subjects or simply wash off the past as "done and gone." But he's able to talk about past injustice without indicting the folks he sees today. And he does it while playing some first class rock and roll. Enjoyable and enlightening.

Jon Worley
Aiding & Abetting (on-line magazine)
August 2001

Eddy Lawrence recorded six solo records before he fully examined his Cherokee heritage. On his latest self-released CD, Going to Water, the resident of tiny Moira, NY gives a Native American history lesson while trying to untangle his pride, confusion and ambivalence in his lineage, and the unforgivable mistreatment of his kin. The result is a provocative and engaging collection of colorful vignettes that manages to be spiritual and political, dark yet hopeful, warm but brutally honest.

I asked Lawrence why it took so long for him to explore his ethnicity through his songs. "Since 1994, I've been living near the Mohawk Territory of Akwesasne. Through my music, I have become friends with many people at Akwesasne and I have been encouraged to explore and acknowledge my native heritage."

Lawrence continued, "For a long time, I felt that I didn't have the right to refer to myself as Indian or native, due to the fact that I didn't grow up on a reservation or in a traditional native community. But I have since learned about some of the things that I have in common with my Mohawk friends as well as with many other native people."

Going to Water begins with the pounding rock of "Five-Dollar Indian," an unblinking probe of Lawrence's complicated ethnicity: "Breaking down my history/Into eighths and sixteenths/Unraveling a mystery/Separating chain links/Searching for my reflection/In a murky dark hole."

Lawrence descended via his mother from Cherokees who escaped removal to Oklahoma (The Trail of Tears) over 150 years ago by hiding in the hills of Alabama and Georgia. Lawrence explained, "Mixed-bloods are not always looked on favorably by the 'purer bloods' who live on reservations or in more traditional native communities. 'Five Dollar Indian' is a term used by people on the Quallah Boundary, a.k.a. the Cherokee Reservation in North Carolina, to describe mixed-blood Indians."

When he isn't writing, recording, or performing, Lawrence is a gardener, hunter, maple sugarer, chicken farmer, guitar teacher and fisherman. His spiritual connection to all things natural is woven into several of the album's cuts. The title track, which sounds like rural Lou Reed, "refers to an ancient Cherokee ceremony, a cleansing and healing ritual," according to Lawrence, while "The Most Universal Solvent In The World" celebrates the amazing potency of water.

The recording of this musically eclectic album was powered completely from solar energy. The track, "Our Elder Brother" is a paean to the sun.

Lawrence explained, "The Mohawk Thanksgiving address is recited in whole or in part on different occasions throughout the year. In this address, all of the vital forces on Earth and above are thanked for their role in sustaining life. The sun is referred to as 'Our Elder Brother.' I live in a solar-powered house and my recordings are made possible by the sun, so I thought it appropriate to include a song of thanks."

Lawrence is an exceptionally gifted lyricist with a novelist's eye for telling small details. "Lyrically, my songs are probably influenced more by what I read than by what I listen to. I have for a long time been a fan of southern writers (the usual stuff: Faulkner , O'Conner, Welty, Cormac McCarthy). I also like short stories in general, with Raymond Carver being a favorite. I guess this explains my 'narrative' approach to songwriting."

He also did his homework while preparing to record Going to Water. "I read a lot of non-fiction, mainly Native American history and some scientific stuff as well as traditional native stories and some contemporary native fiction." His study is manifested on the explosive "Four Faces," on which Lawrence blasts the hypocrisy behind the images etched into Mount Rushmore ("Four faces look down from up in the sky/Four great white fathers telling great white lies"). Other strong cuts include the bitter waltz "El Barzon," which is Mexican slang for 'the yoke of debt,' the homemade reggae of "Turtles," and "Birdtown," the breezy and melodic closer.

Lawrence, who will be performing tonight at Oona's, played all of the instruments on his record. "The studio has increasingly become a composition tool for me, especially now that I have my own digital gear at home. Recording at home and playing all of the parts myself allows me to experiment more and work in a relaxed, low-pressure environment," he said.

The result is a forceful exploration of one man's proud heritage that is as enlightening as it is entertaining.

Dave Madeloni
Brattleboro Reformer
February 2002

...Eddy Lawrence has a very full life including one as a singing and songwriting troubadour. Here he plays folk, folk-rock, country rock, hard rock and even a waltz. Lawrence is of European and Cherokee ancestry. He doesn't ignore the former and wear the latter on his sleeve, but he does indulge in the world of Native Americana on this disc of catchy, but non-commercial music.

This album gets off to a provocative start when he sings, "You take a little old-world / You take a little new / You mix it all together / In a violent stew," from "Five Dollar Indian." In the infectious-but-pessimistic "Turtles," the protagonist claims to believe in extremely little, if anything. He also offers interesting observations about animals, with lines like, "Turtles are skeptical / Bears are laid back / If you challenge a wolf / A wolf will attack / Bears are diplomats / Wolves are true-blue / Turtles are skeptical / And I am too."

Another keen observation in "Your Own Frontier" states, "The frontier is everywhere / You gotta make your own frontier." Meanwhile, "El Barzon" is an angry waltz about subservience. It's very pretty if you ignore the lyrics (and that's not saying they're bad, just angry).

The title song is one of the catchiest here, resembling Bob Dylan's "Everything is Broken." When was the last time you heard a song about water? The fast rocker, "The Most Universal Solvent in the World" is about just that. Good song for a brisk walk. "Radio Bingo" is a cool musical relative of Pink Floyd's "San Tropez."

And talk about being versatile - in "Catching a Dream" Lawrence sounds like something from an Arlo Guthrie album, and "Gravity" starts out with a Los Straitjackets guitar sound, then segues into a hard-rocking tune a la Pearl Jam. This song includes the clever line, "I know you love me / Cause you bring me down," which is not a complaint by the song's protagonist - he's grateful to his mate because, as he clarifies, "You keep my feet / On solid ground."

I don't want to grind these comparisons into the ground (too late, right?) but "Birdtown" would be a great song for Paul Simon to cover.

When Eddy Lawrence is not playing music, he indulges in such activities as gardening, fishing, hunting, maple sugaring and tending to his chickens. Gee, no criminal record? Isn't that a prerequisite for pop music stardom now? He's also a guitar teacher and lives in a cabin in upstate New York - a very interesting guy. Going to Water is Lawrence's 7th release and it could well spur new listeners into checking out some of his other records.

David Lilly
Louisville Music News
November 2001

It's lots of performers new to the venue and exceptional double bills for the winter line-up of the Flying Under Radar Thursday night concerts at Oona's Restaurant in Bellows Falls. Concert creator Charlie Hunter consistently pulls in some of the Northeast's best singer/songwriters, often putting two outstanding performers on the same bill at this intimate restaurant. These double treats continue....

Oona's Valentine's Day show on Feb. 14 features two quite different artists, though similarly named and equally talented. Neither has played Oona's before, but on the strength of their CDs, it would seem that either one could be the headliner here. Edie Carey is more pop than folk....The fact that she is sharing the Oona's bill with Eddy Lawrence is sure to make for an impressive show and certainly one of the best double-bills of the year.

Lawrence's music is considerably more kick-butt rock and roll - he's an impressive guitarist, and his new CD, Going To Water, shows off his blues-influenced Strat work to very good effect. And where Lawrence's vocals may not be the strongest, his lyrics - which have been compared to a musical version of a Russell Banks novel - more than make up for the lack.

Of special interest is that Lawrence - who grew up in the South, lived for several years in New York City, and has in recent years made his home in a rural part of upstate New York - has begun exploring his Cherokee heritage on the new CD. Fourteen new songs deal with a lot of issues important to Native Americans, though they are a far cry from the stereotypical.

As the album title indicates, water is a dominant theme moving from song to song. In the title track, Lawrence writes about going [to] water as a metaphor both about accepting and rejecting Christianity. The last verse gives a clear indication of both his song writing skills and his personal journey back to an individual spirituality more sustaining than the Christian faith: "I grew up on a back street / Deep down in Birmingham / I learned how to scuffle / And how not to give a damn / I learned to live for Saturday / For a bottle and a brawl / And to bow down on Sunday / And be forgiven for it all / Now I wake up every morning / And say a prayer to the east / And when the green corn ripens / I have a little feast."

Robert F. Smith
Rutland Herald
January 2002

ISWM INDIE PICK OF THE MONTH - Contemporary music that recalls the culture of the American Indian, merging it with the freedom of today's society. Proud music with an edgy, sparse production. It has all the elements of becoming a classic reference for independent expression.

* * * * *
Independent Songwriter Web-Magazine
August 2001

 

eddy@snowplowrecords.com

 

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