All heart, no kitsch
Richie Lawrence and Katie Thomas
Big Book Records
On his latest album, Sacramento singer-songwriter Richie Lawrence takes an eclectic approach with a new take on old favorite sounds.
The 10 tracks on Rue Sanxay include a host of guest musicians as well as Matt Baxter on guitars and mandolin, Scott Prawalsky on bass, Bart van der Zeeuw on drums and Katie Thomas on vocals.
It's Thomas' contributions in particular that elevate many of the songs to new, beautiful heights. Lawrence's longtime musical collaborator and wife takes lead vocals on three songs, “Play On,” “Oxford Town,” and the melancholic “When I Find My Love Some Day.” Here, Thomas' warm vocals float atop a feathery bed of gentle, Western frontier-appropriate strings as she reflects on love. It's a cowgirl's lament, but without the kitsch too often present in modern Americana.
On “Over and Over” Thomas also joins Lawrence for a slow number that feels as though it were born from a bottle of good cognac and gently steeped in cigarette smoke. The title track, an instrumental written in Paris, carries itself like a French waltz, dipping and curtsying with bright, vibrant notes.
Rue Sanxay makes for a varied, often unexpected assortment of sounds. The beauty is that even as songs expertly traverse genres, they're threaded together by a sense of history and heart. In short, it never sounds as if the musicians are just playing dress-up. Rue Sanxay's out now and this Saturday, Lawrence and Thomas will perform songs from the album at Luna's Cafe. Gene Williams, the couple's pal from Los Angeles, will also be on the bill. 8:30 p.m. Saturday, April 18, $8. Luna's Cafe, 1414 16th Street; www.richielawrence.com.