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Stuart Lawrence - One (self-released)

1 November 2023

Join an international music promotion platform, they said. Write about exotic global artists for far-flung publications, they said. So I did, and today, I have written about artists from Oxford, Reading, and now Portsmouth, all towns within a couple of hours of my home in the southwest of the UK. This can only mean one of two things: either this region is an absolute hotbed of musical genius, or the world, contrary to popular belief, is a much smaller place than they would have us believe. I’m inclined to believe the former.

Then again, the moment the inaugural strains of Stuart Laurence’s titular track, “One”, from his debut album unfurled, I was hooked. Anyone channeling the essence of a chilled-out, slightly more ballad-inclined incarnation of Neil MacColl in his Liberty Horses heyday earns my instant seal of approval. Stuart’s worldly, alluring voice seems to echo from the same enigmatic realm.

With enough material to populate no less than eight albums, some may argue that there exists a quantity-versus-quality conundrum here. However, a single listen to this album dispels any notion of mediocrity. There are instants during this inaugural venture that compel me to pause, reexamine the liner notes, and reassure myself that I haven’t misconstrued—wondering if I’m delving into a greatest hits compilation rather than an artist’s initial sonic foray.

While this album leans more toward the realm of measured and contemplative, reveling in the realm of the subtle and subdued, there are interludes crafted from more vigorous sources. “To The Limit” stands as a testament to this duality, striking a pristine equilibrium between pop vibrancy and rock-infused lyricism.

Primarily, Stuart Lawrence dons the cloak of a laid-back singer-songwriter, and why not? It’s a persona he embodies with finesse. “Screaming Blue Murder” strikes a surprisingly deep and resonant chord despite its seemingly contrary title, while “Is This What They Call Love” bears the hallmarks of heartfelt sincerity. “Avoiding Traffic Jams” weaves a spacious sonic narrative adorned with sleek guitar motifs that appear to traverse not just physical paths but metaphorical ones as well, opting for the road less traveled, or at least the one less congested and confrontational.

The finale arrives in the form of “Chasing Dreams,” a glistening acoustic opus meticulously carved from the raw material of cinematic sonics and unbridled passion.

Stuart Lawrence is a natural. “One” is an extraordinary album. His compositions stand head and shoulders above the sea of singer-songwriters that will cross your path this year, perhaps even this decade. I’ll put money on it. Consider my interest thoroughly piqued, and apparently, there will be at least seven more albums, if not more, to explore. Brilliant indeed.