Listen to these: Steve Lawson, Etran de L’Air, Brian Jackson & Automatic

The past few months have been a little less productive in terms of finding new music, but there’ve been a few gems I’ve been wanting to blog about.

Steve Lawson is a prolific solo bassist out of the UK who has an enormous back catalog on Bandcamp. I picked up a subscription to the “Steve Lawson Listening Club” a while ago and still haven’t quite made it through everything. Recently Steve was diagnosed with a low-grade lymphoma and has been undergoing chemo and promoting the subscription more actively to help with costs and engage with fans while dealing with cancer.

As mentioned, his catalog can be a bit daunting so he’s put together a few “Best of Steve Lawson” compilations to help spark discussion and serve as an intro to his music. I think they’re fantastic and a great place to start if you enjoy melodic, bass-heavy, often instrumental tunes. Don’t know Steve personally, but he also comes across as a person I’d quite enjoy hanging out with given the opportunity. Maybe I’ll get the opportunity someday, but in the meantime I feel like I’ve gotten a good glimpse of his soul via his music – and there’s a lot of beauty there.

Encourage you to check it out and spring for the digital albums or yearly subscription if it appeals to you.

Agadez by Etran de L’Aïr

Not too long ago I stumbled on Mdou Moctar via Bandcamp and have had an ear out for more music in that vein. A friend on Twitter happened to mention Etran de L’Aïr, which gives me much the same vibe.

Their Agadez release from February this year is full of bright, joyous songs with infectious melodies. According to the Bandcamp description “Etran de L’Aïr play in a pan-African style that is emblematic of their hometown, citing a myriad of cultural influences, from Northern Malian blues, Hausa bar bands, to Congolese SoukousAgadez retains all the energy of a party.” Sounds about right!

This is Brian Jackson by Brian Jackson

Brian Jackson is probably best known for his work with Gil Scott-Heron, which might have something to do with the fact that 1) that work was fantastic, and 2) he’s not exactly a prolific solo artist. Case in point, he released This is Brian Jackson in May this year, which is his first solo album in more than 20 years.

To the extent any album is worth a 20-year wait, I suppose this one is. It’s a nice blend of jazz, funk, soul and more that sounds contemporary and classic at the same time. You could’ve released “Little Orphan Boy” in the 80s and it would’ve sounded right at home. Sounds great today, too. Let’s hope we don’t need to wait until 2042 for the next album…

Excess by Automatic

Automatic‘s Signal (2019) caught my ear a while back with the track “Suicide in Texas.” That record’s been in rotation since, so I was pleased to find that they’d released a new album last month Excess. It’s full of sparse, synth-y goodness with deadpan vocals, but strangely engaging energy. Like an old person, I ordered the CD and actually popped it into my car’s CD player immediately for the round-trips driving our resident teen to driver’s ed. It’s a great commute album, and I keep summoning it for workday music too.

If you’re a Gen X’er with a love of 80s minor key, unrushed synth-pop this will scratch that itch without sounding derivative or repetitive.

Happy Sunday listening. Got a recommendation for me? Hit me up in the comments. I’m always on the hunt for new or new-to-me music.

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