Produced, mixed and everything else by Steve Lawson. Released on Sunday 1 August 2004.
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And now for something completely different… In a change to our scheduled timetable, let’s explore some ambient, cinematic, electronic, improvised jazz played entirely on a bass guitar and looping equipment.
A disclosure, Steve Lawson is a very good friend of mine. I’ve known him in one guise or another since we were teenagers. According to Bass Guitar Magazine, he’s also “Britain’s most innovative bassist, no contest”. He has supported Level 42 and the 21st Century Schizoid Band on tour. He’s even given a concert in my living room.
If you are looking for metal credentials, Steve’s a good friend of Alex Webster of Cannibal Corpse, and Victor Brandt of Dimmu Borgir. He once texted me to say that he’d just been chatting to Tom G Warrior of Celtic Frost and Tryptikon about me. About me!
I could have chosen any of his 58 albums to review—you read that right, fifty-eight. Some are solo albums, some are collaborations, all are chapters and verses in Steve journalling Steve’s musical explorations as grows as an artist—but Grace and Gratitude (2004) has a special place in my heart.
In 2004, Steve stayed with me in Edinburgh while he performed for two weeks at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I got a walk-on part as he introduced the From Dusk Til Dawn-inspired song “MMFSOG”. We’d sit up into the small hours chatting and laughing, listening to music and picking up the shards of glass from the pint glass he dropped—the noisiest mice I’ve ever had in the house.
Grace and Gratitude was inspired by the 2004 European elections. It was almost named Kilroy-Silk’s a Bastard, but instead, Steve focussed on the central problem that he saw with UKIP: their ingratitude for what they had. So, Steve wrote an album about all the things he was grateful for. In Steve’s words, “The unifying theme of all of them, was that I didn’t deserve any of them… hence the ‘Grace’ bit.”
Steve’s music has been described as “the soundtrack to the day you wish you’d had”. For me, that soundtrack is this album, Grace and Gratitude. From the sublime and gentle title track itself to the funky “Shizzle” (track 6) and the spacy final track “Smoke from Burning Steam” (track 10), this album takes me on a journey. Sure, there are some weird and crazy elements like the almost inaccessible ambient jazz of “The journey of a thousand miles…” (track 2) and the cloudy and atmospheric “You can’t throw it away…” (track 8), but there is always something of the most exquisite beauty to be found in each track. This album has got me through many a tough day.
As well as the option to buy individual tracks, Steve offers an annual subscription to his music. For £30 GBP per year you get all the new music he releases, plus bonus items from his back-catalogue, subscriber-only specials, and access to subscriber-exclusive messages.
Steve received a bit of a curveball last week. After being admitted to hospital, it turns out that Steve’s been unknowingly living with cancer for the last wee while. So, if you want another excuse to throw some money Steve’s direction, the money will really help Steve and his family to focus on getting Steve well without worrying about how to put food on the table. (Steve’s wife is also a musician, the wonderfully talented Lobelia.)
One of my favourite albums by one of my favuorite humans. What more can I say? In places it is sublime, in others it is utterly crazy, but it is always a happy slice of genius.
Review score: 95%