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An Evening with Greg Laswell

Singer-songwriter

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Okay, so what? Here’s another album about heartbreak . . . or heartache.

But isn’t the worry that when each of us stares down heartbreak/heartache (we all do), we just want so desperately to know that as many people as possible are just as miserable as we are? Misery doesn’t just need company, it needs a very specific sort of kinship. And it needs someone who can profoundly articulate it, not just rhyme a few words about some inconsiderate asshole.

It’s not important to reveal the specific catalyst for Greg Laswell’s latest record, Everyone Thinks I Dodged a Bullet, but rather to focus anew on what makes him one of the most uncompromising songwriters of these modern times. You may recognize a bit of Leonard Cohen in his tormented baritone. You might think of Tom Waits when you sense how deep down in the gut these songs come from.

But if there is a quality that still, and ever, marks out Laswell’s writing, it is an ability to use words like unrepentant paper cuts. Should you be at the receiving end, perhaps you might not at first feel the sting, but it will burn like hell later.

Imagine the coldness of being the subject of such biting vitriol as “I’m gonna be lazy when I write about you.” Imagine that you mean so much nothing to someone you once meant the world to.

And how would you process the sting of “What are you going to do when gravity gets to you?” Meanness, after all, is sometimes utterly justified—and in Greg Laswell’s world, no punches are pulled for the sake of possible hurt feelings.

But if you feel the same as does he, the words feel like little (or maybe enormous) triumphs. His pen is mighty, especially when it’s aimed at the heart. And the songs urge you to join in pushing the point in deeper.

The music lends powerful atmospheric gravitas to the words. It soars with tortured majesty (“Lifetime Ago”), it haunts so ever beautifully (“Out of Line”), and it aches with a piercing sadness (“Play That One Again”).

Popmatters called his work “haunting, genuine, and surprisingly uplifting.” Filter described his songs as “punches to the gut.” And Blurt said of his music that it’s both “majestic and meditative.”

On the title track, Laswell matter-of-factly confesses, “Everyone thinks I dodged a bullet. But I think I shot the gun.” Loaded words, for an album loaded with open wounds.

Haunting, genuine and surprisingly uplifting

PopMatters

Punches to the gut

Filter

Majestic and meditative

Blurt

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