Lawrence recorded six solo records before he fully examined his
Cherokee heritage. On his latest self-released CD, Going to
Water, the resident of tiny Moira, NY gives a Native American
history lesson while trying to untangle his pride, confusion and
ambivalence in his lineage, and the unforgivable mistreatment
of his kin. The result is a provocative and engaging collection
of colorful vignettes that manages to be spiritual and political,
dark yet hopeful, warm but brutally honest.
I asked Lawrence why it took so long for him to explore his ethnicity
through his songs. "Since 1994, I've been living near the
Mohawk Territory of Akwesasne. Through my music, I have become
friends with many people at Akwesasne and I have been encouraged
to explore and acknowledge my native heritage."
continued, "For a long time, I felt that I didn't have the
right to refer to myself as Indian or native, due to the fact
that I didn't grow up on a reservation or in a traditional native
community. But I have since learned about some of the things that
I have in common with my Mohawk friends as well as with many other
to Water begins with the pounding rock of "Five-Dollar
Indian," an unblinking probe of Lawrence's complicated ethnicity:
"Breaking down my history/Into eighths and sixteenths/Unraveling
a mystery/Separating chain links/Searching for my reflection/In
a murky dark hole."
descended via his mother from Cherokees who escaped removal to
Oklahoma (The Trail of Tears) over 150 years ago by hiding in
the hills of Alabama and Georgia. Lawrence explained, "Mixed-bloods
are not always looked on favorably by the 'purer bloods' who live
on reservations or in more traditional native communities. 'Five
Dollar Indian' is a term used by people on the Quallah Boundary,
a.k.a. the Cherokee Reservation in North Carolina, to describe
he isn't writing, recording, or performing, Lawrence is a gardener,
hunter, maple sugarer, chicken farmer, guitar teacher and fisherman.
His spiritual connection to all things natural is woven into several
of the album's cuts. The title track, which sounds like rural
Lou Reed, "refers to an ancient Cherokee ceremony, a cleansing
and healing ritual," according to Lawrence, while "The
Most Universal Solvent In The World" celebrates the amazing
potency of water.
recording of this musically eclectic album was powered completely
from solar energy. The track, "Our Elder Brother" is
a paean to the sun.
explained, "The Mohawk Thanksgiving address is recited in
whole or in part on different occasions throughout the year. In
this address, all of the vital forces on Earth and above are thanked
for their role in sustaining life. The sun is referred to as 'Our
Elder Brother.' I live in a solar-powered house and my recordings
are made possible by the sun, so I thought it appropriate to include
a song of thanks."
is an exceptionally gifted lyricist with a novelist's eye for
telling small details. "Lyrically, my songs are probably
influenced more by what I read than by what I listen to. I have
for a long time been a fan of southern writers (the usual stuff:
Faulkner , O'Conner, Welty, Cormac McCarthy). I also like short
stories in general, with Raymond Carver being a favorite. I guess
this explains my 'narrative' approach to songwriting."
also did his homework while preparing to record Going to Water.
"I read a lot of non-fiction, mainly Native American history
and some scientific stuff as well as traditional native stories
and some contemporary native fiction." His study is manifested
on the explosive "Four Faces," on which Lawrence blasts
the hypocrisy behind the images etched into Mount Rushmore ("Four
faces look down from up in the sky/Four great white fathers telling
great white lies"). Other strong cuts include the bitter
waltz "El Barzon," which is Mexican slang for 'the yoke
of debt,' the homemade reggae of "Turtles," and "Birdtown,"
the breezy and melodic closer.
who will be performing tonight at Oona's, played all of the instruments
on his record. "The studio has increasingly become a composition
tool for me, especially now that I have my own digital gear at
home. Recording at home and playing all of the parts myself allows
me to experiment more and work in a relaxed, low-pressure environment,"
result is a forceful exploration of one man's proud heritage that
is as enlightening as it is entertaining.