Jerry Lawson: Unsung Hero of Acappella, Soul and R&B

Since the beginning of popular music, it seems some genres just don't get the type of press they deserve, as often as they should. This certainly shouldn't reflect the talent of these musicians, as it has very little to do with talent, and more to do with whatever is attractive for marketers to sell at that given time.

Back in the 1950s, R&B artists like Ray Charles, the Coasters and the Drifters laid some of the groundwork for, and had a pronounced influence on, the development of rock 'n' roll. Later transforming into Doo Wop, Soul and the great work of Motown, these artists had a great deal of success, but would eventually be eclipsed by the classic rock era. They genre didn't go away though, as artists across the globe kept this music popular and around right up until today, but it's mainstream popularity has steadily declined to the point where some genres are not represented at all.

Acappella music has remained part of the soul and R&B tradition right up until today, although few groups have been truly loyal to it. One of the exceptions has been the great Jerry Lawson.

I'll admit that up until a few days ago when I was contacted by Julie Lawson (Jerry's wife) to check out his music, I had not heard of him, his new band Jerry Lawson and the Talk of the Town, or his former band the Persuasions. Still, I am always interested in new music and so I did check out his website, and listened to some of his music.

Acappella has not typically been one of my favorite genres, as I have always been drawn more to guitar based music like blues and rock 'n' roll. Still, over the years I have heard some amazing artists from these genres.

I have to say that after listening to this man sing, I now consider Jerry Lawson to be one of the the unsung heroes of acappella, soul and R&B.

I did a little research on him and his other bands, as my knowledge of acappella is lacking. Between information provided by Julie Lawson, and various sources online I discovered that although Jerry's original band, the Persuasions had been popular for 40 years now, their music just hasn't been recognized by mainstream music, receiving little to no radio airplay outside of a few small hits in the '70s. I have not heard much of their music, but the Persuasions seem like quite an interesting group, having a number of their own albums as well as a number of albums dedicated entirely to acappella covers, including the work of the Beatles, U2, the Grateful Dead and Frank Zappa, (Zappa signed the group to his label back in 1969). The band seemed to always sell out shows via word of mouth, but was simply not getting the recognition they deserved on a wide scale.

Jerry Lawson eventually left the Persuasions to pursue other work for his vocal talents in other genres, but now he has returned to keep the acappella tradition alive with Jerry Lawson and the Talk of the Town.

The tracks I've listened to by this group are immensely soulful and hearken back to the days when more soul music was more popular. Warm and compelling, with that certain passion that can only come from people who absolutely love the music that they are making, I can see why Jerry has been popular for the past 40 years and his music has spread via word of mouth. It is simply great heartfelt music with these guys putting every ounce of soul they have into their vocals. Few groups ever achieved this kind of rich harmony and complexity using only the human voice, it is just so dense and lush that it really makes the tracks sparkle with that little extra something. Although instrument geared groups are also amazing, there is just something that I've discovered is great about acappella. It has an intensity, authenticity and intimacy that is otherwise impossible as you can just imagine sitting around with this bunch of guys listening to them sing completely off the cuff. That makes these songs all the more powerful, heartfelt and real.

The music can give you shivers down your spine and for me, that is the mark of a great musician. If you can reach the listener and make them feel something special whether with your voice or with any other instrument, than you're making great music.

Acappella soul and R&B is definitely not for everyone, but then again, what genre is? I am not a major fan of these genres myself, and yet Jerry Lawson and the Talk of the Town, still blew me away with their soulful vocal work and perfect harmonies. I'd recommend them to anyone who is at all interested. Sometimes getting caught up in genres keeps us isolated from some great music and sometimes the mainstream passes by some incredibly talented artists simply because they are looking for the next selling point. It is a shame that this type of music isn't heard on widespread media as I'm sure this group's talent could take them far, given the opportunity.

Jerry Lawson may not be receiving too much mainstream success (yet), but I'm glad these guys are keeping this genre alive and doing so with such soulful style. I hope you will check out the music of Jerry Lawson and the Talk of the Town, as whether you're interested in acappella music or not, these guys definitely have some soul.

Keep making great music Jerry...

If you're interested in Jerry Lawson and the Talk of the Town, check out their webpage at http://www.jerrylawson.biz/

Also, check out their myspace page to listen to a few tracks of their new album. I was especially impressed by the track "Freedom" . You can also view a video of Jerry Lawson and the Talk of the Town singing with the infamous Rod Stewart at the Katrina benefit on their myspace page. Make sure to check that performance out as well, as it is also quite impressive. Here is their myspace page: http://www.myspace.com/jerrylawsonmusic

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