Lawson Rollins’ recordings have always possessed a grand sense of travel, exoticism and adventure, narrated by the global guitarist’s prodigious and alacritous classical fingerstyle play that Guitar Player magazine recently spotlighted by selecting Rollins as one of the “50 Transcendent Acoustic Guitarists” of all-time. After embarking upon a creative departure on a few recent projects, the chart-topping composer-producer-musician, best known for crafting lush amalgams of contemporary jazz, world music, Latin and New Age over the past twenty years, charts a more familiar course on his tenth solo album, “True North,” dropping January 17, 2020 on Infinita Records. Yet there is a marked difference in his approach.
The prolific Rollins spent the last couple of years exploring vast horizons. Last year, he assembled “Airwaves: The Greatest Hits,” which includes the Billboard top 10 hit “World of Wonder” featuring 3rd Force and earlier this year, he released the experimental “Dark Matter: Music for Film.” Rollins also scored his first feature film, “Stay Out Stay Alive,” a multiple award-winning movie opening November 26 for which he served as executive producer of the film festival favorite. These diverse projects broadened the scope of his artistic muse, now budding in entirely new and different dimensions. Culling elements from each one, Rollins picked up his trusty acoustic nylon string guitar and utilized a fresh approach to write and produce “True North,” the first album that he produced entirely on his own. The wide array of projects also impacts the way he plays guitar, which exhibits a keener focus, discipline and restraint.
“The past couple of years have really expanded my musical horizons through my work on film music and also the single, ‘And If You Will Come With Me’ by Israeli superstar singer Idan Raichel. Those experiences forced me to hone down my quite often exuberant nylon string guitar style to suit the needs of the particular projects and also to delve more seriously into other instruments like the electric guitar, synthesizers and electronic percussion programming. With ‘True North,’ I was able to bring that new knowledge and perspective back home, in a sense, to the type of nylon string guitar-centered music that has been my true calling as an artist over the past 20 years,” said the San Francisco-based Rollins who hails from Durham, North Carolina.
“This is the first album I solely produced and also recorded all my guitars myself. I was able to take my time to capture performances that felt natural and unhurried to me, and I'm also really pleased with the warmth and purity of the acoustic guitar tone."
Change is also evident on the album cover and in the accompanying booklet, which are bright with pastoral colors and sunlight in photos taken on the Outer Banks, North Carolina, where Rollins spends a lot of time each year. Before the holidays next month, radio outlets will get to experience the first single from “Truth North” when “Bluewave Bossanova,” a sultry dance of textured world beat rhythms and an impassioned surge of guitar arpeggios, scales and harmonies, goes for playlist adds. The radio edit includes the addition of a sensitive soprano sax played by Mary Fettig.
Rollins thrives on the collection, stretching out by playing nylon string guitar, slide guitar and electric guitar along with keyboards and drum programming. He’s accompanied by drummer and percussionist Dave Bryant, bassist Dan Feiszli, violinist Mads Tolling and Stephen Duros who plays additional keyboards and electric guitar on “With the Wind,” an eclectic and imaginative album highlight destined to blow to the top of the radio charts.
“Many of the tracks, such as the title track as well as ‘With the Wind’ and ‘Dead Ahead,’ are unlike anything I've ever done, with new textures augmenting the familiar sound of my main instrument, the acoustic nylon string guitar. There's a more intense focus on melodic expression on this album and less on long improvisational flights of fancy. It's all about staying firmly on course - true north, as it were - and doing what serves the songs best."
Rollins’ unique brand defies simple categorization and has proven crossover appeal. He has placed albums in the top ten of Billboard’s World Music chart and his singles have conquered the contemporary jazz charts as well as garnered an abundance of airplay from world music and New Age outlets. Videos showcasing his lightning speed, extraordinary dexterity and mesmerizing guitar technique have received over 10 million YouTube views. After debuting in 2000 as a member of Young & Rollins, a duo that dropped four albums, Rollins premiered as a solo artist in 2008 with “Infinita.” His albums serve collaborations with an assorted mix of GRAMMY® winners and nominees that spans Tolling, guitar eccentric Buckethead,Flora Purim, Airto Moreira, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Charlie Bisharat.