Time on the road with The Felice Brothers, the Gun Outfit, and Conor Oberst has honed William Lawrence’s musicianship to a precision instrument. On Slow Dancing on a High Wire, Lawrence wields that instrument with the skill of a highly trained professional.
Slow Dancing on a High Wire immediately puts the listener in a dreamy state with a title track that compares the head rush of falling in love with a performer on stage or taking the first step onto a tight wire high above (and away from) the city’s din below. The airy production by Ian McGuire lulls the band into a dream state and hints at the question: is the high wire a precarious or precious place to be? “Places of Our Own” continues the same dreamy feel while turning attention to the simplicity of domestic bliss. Dan Stern (drums), Geoff Saunders (bass), Chris May (pedal steel), and Greg Marino’s (woodwinds) accompaniment compliments Lawrence’s voice with a restrained presence throughout and just the right amount of punch when necessary. Lawrence’s electric guitar work in “Gallows” punctuates the turn toward a less optimistic lyric shift as does the frenzied flute interlude. The flute returns throughout the record in a more soothing tone, but on “Gallows” it adds to the purposeful tension-building sense of momentary confusion highlighting the moment the narrator condemns himself to the gallows before lulling the narrator back to the inescapable jaws of his fateful demise. ”
Send a Line”‘s smooth horn brings forth images of 1970’s NYC as Bernard Herrman expressed it, while the slow pace evokes a contrasting lazy evening stroll through a quiet neighborhood. “Interlude” acts as a pallet cleanser before the second half of the record which has a more full-band feel accentuated by prominent electric guitar and drums. Lawrence’s phrasing and a heavy dollop of reverb on the vocals maintains the overall dreaminess of the record however. “I took a walk and lost my dog and soon was lost the same” from Saint Winifred reminds of us all of how close we all are to losing what holds us together.
“Back From Where I’ve Been” closes the record by calling forth the traveling life’s parallels to the changing seasons in the first few lines, concluding by the time the leaves “fall again, I’ll be back from where I’ve been”.
Although released in the dog days of summer, Slow Dancing on a High Wire feels like a fall record. Be ready to pull it back out come October or November, put it on, watch the leaves change, and enjoy a hot cup of coffee while Lawrence wraps you in his cozy embrace. https://wtlawrence.bandcamp.com
Review by H.R.Gertner