Lawrence - Breakfast (2016)

Lawrence
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What NYC-based siblings Gracie and Clyde Lawrence have managed to do at theages of 18 and 22, respectively, on their 12-song debut, Breakfast, is nothing short of amazing. Not since Bruno Mars’ debut album has there been as soulful, playful, and exuberant a soul pop album rooted in the R&B and singer/songwriter traditions established by artists like Carole King, Hall & Oates, and even Motown as this one. Breakfast does more than starts your day; it’ll have you eating omelets and pancakes for dinner too.

What NYC-based siblings Gracie and Clyde Lawrence have managed to do at theages of 18 and 22, respectively, on their 12-song debut, Breakfast, is nothing short of amazing. Not since Bruno Mars’ debut album has there been as soulful, playful, and exuberant a soul pop album rooted in the R&B and singer/songwriter traditions established by artists like Carole King, Hall & Oates, and even Motown as this one. Breakfast does more than starts your day; it’ll have you eating omelets and pancakes for dinner too.

Lawrence is more than a sibling vocal duo. In addition to being a fine tenor, Clyde also delivers on keys, working with Sam Askin and Justin Ryan on drums, Sumner Becker on alto sax, Jordan Cohen on tenor sax, Marc Langer on trumpet, Jonny Koh on guitar, Michael Karsh on bass, and, course, Gracie’s agile alto vocals. Produced by Grammy-Award winning producer Eric Krasno (Soulive, Tedeschi Trucks Band), Breakfast also includes as guest some artists with fairly impressive pedigrees, including Snarky Puppy’s Corey Henry, Tedeschi Trucks’ Maurice “Mobetta” Brown, and Adam Deitch of Lettuce fame.

Gracie and Clyde have been garnering respect in the music industry since childhood, when Clyde, at age six, became the youngest member of the Songwriters Guild of America and placed songs and scored for multiple films, including Miss Congeniality. For her part, Gracie already has Broadway and film credits as a performer. Their youth withstanding, there is a maturity on Breakfast that is precocious to say the least.

Vocally, both leads are solid, utterly believable, and well suited for a band context, with harmonically compatible instruments that lend themselves perfectly to these songs and musicians. But the stars of Breakfast aren’t the great playing and rangy, capable vocals, though both are mighty fine; the stars are the band’s self-penned songs themselves. A remorseful song like “Oh No” brightens with its build until it becomes a rousing bar room sing-a-long. Fresh lyrics that reject the usual suspects can be found on lightly funky cuts like “Alibi” and “Superficial” (which boasts a bridge straight out of the Stevie Wonder playbook, a noted influence). “Misty Morning” sounds like its name. “Wash Away” is that distinctive 60s-era blend of doo wop, church organ gospel, and peppy pop, while “Me & You” is Corporation-era Jackson 5.

A plaintive acoustic folk ballad like “Come on, Brother (feat. Linus Lawrence)” echoes the days of Peter, Paul and Mary and The Beatles at their simplest. The belting rocker, “Shot,” demonstrates the dynamic group can be as bold and brassy as they are sublimely smooth when the song calls for it. The atmospheric “Where It Started From” even shows a ‘90s-era neo-soul groove that wouldn’t have been out of place on D’Angelo’s or Remy Shand’s debuts. Lawrence’s DNA is to stretch and defy being neatly pigeonholed into one sound, one era, or one thing, and they have the songs and talent to pull it off.

Despite dabbling in lots of musical palettes, these varied portraits feel like they belong in the same exhibit, thanks to the consistency in production, songwriting, arrangement and use of brass. The album is also generous, giving both lead singers equal time to shine on leads, with “Cold” showcasing Clyde’s achy, world weary tone and “Shot” providing ample room for the slightly nasal, twangy Gracie to embrace her inner rocker chick and howl at the moon. Their easy first single and video, “Do You Wanna Do Nothing With Me,” is an accurate introduction to a band whose casual energy is one stamped with sunshine and a streetwise sophistication that lends itself to multiple audiences. This is one Breakfast that skips on none of the nutrition, but also none of the ooey gooey, greasy goodness either. Everything needed is represented and it’s oh, so good. Highly Recommended.

By L. Michael Gipson

 
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