Blues Bytes


August 2007

an associate

Jerry Lawson / Talk of the Town
Jerry Lawson / Talk of the Town
Beyond A Cappella Records

Jerry Lawson

I’m sitting here listening to one of the best records I’ve heard all year, bar none, and it's amazing to read the liner notes to realize this CD from Jerry Lawson/Talk of the Town almost didn’t happen. But I’m glad it did and Jerry & Julie Lawson have self-produced a wonderful a capella album, the self-titled Jerry Lawson/Talk of the Town. I’ll leave you to read the liner notes yourself to learn the story of how this wonderful project came to be.

The strong bass voice of Ray Ragler provides the intro for the Johnny Rivers classic, “Mountain of Love,” to kick everything off. Ray’s tone is strong and sure as Jerry and the rest of Talk of the Town tear into one of my all-time favorite Rivers tunes. When its finished Jerry moves on to tell us of his friendship with Sam Cooke as the group breaks into “Frankie & Johnny.” The harmonies are very tight and this combination of Jerry with Talk of the Town is just amazing. Sean Altman guests on the next cut, “The River of Dreams”, to sing the high notes and hits them flawlessly. I can hardly believe my ears that a man can sing that far up in the register but Sean does, and very well I might add.

Ray’s booming voice rings in my ears as the group tackles a Talk of the Town favorite, “Ray’s Rock House.” “Can you rock…can you roll…that’s what we want you to to do…rock the house is good for the soul!” Moving on, “I Hope” is a song Jerry first heard backstage at a Dixie Chick’s rehearsal for a Katrina benefit. It stuck in the back of his mind and was an obvious choice for this record. “Oh Rosie, her man he gets too rough…and all she can say is ‘he’s a good man…he don’t mean no harm…he was just brought up that way…but our children are watching us…they put their trust in us…they’re gong to be like us…it's ok for us to disagree but we can work it out lovingly!” What a wonderful song of inspiration, and a beautiful choice.

Sean Altman is back to sing the Dolly Parton harmonies as Jerry and Talk of the Town tackle the song Kenny Rogers and Dolly made famous, “Islands in the Stream.” “We start and end as one...islands in the stream…that is what we are…no one in between…how can we be wrong…sail away with me…to another world!” The next song surprises me. It’s hard to imagine a Randy Newman song as a prayer, but Jerry heard “He Gives Us All His Love” as a prayer and added the vocal talents of Alyn Eva Kelley, Cynsa Bonorris and Desiree Pointer Mace to give it a prayerful quality. Very soulful. It’s an interesting contrast to Newman’s original for sure.

It turns out there’s more than one Lawson in the family who can sing, as Jerry’s daughter, Yvette, takes the microphone on “For the Love of You.” “Lovely as a ray of sun…that touches me when the morning comes…feels good to me….my love and me.” Yvette has a beautiful voice and I can see Jerry’s bright smile in my minds eye when they were recording this song. Talk of the Town then steps to the forefront on “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” to perform this song from their repertoire, and it’s a nice touch to have them perform on their own.

I have to admit I was skeptical at the inclusion of a Shania Twain song about PMS, “Honey I’m Home,” on the record but a quick phrasing solves the obvious gender issues and I get a kick out of Ray singing, “Give the dog a bone.” His bass voice is just amazing and leads us into the next tune, a Sawyer Brown song, “Thank God for You.” ‘Thank momma for the cooking…daddy for the whupping…the devil for the trouble that I get in to…got to give credit where credit is due….thank the bank for the money…thank God for you!”

Next up is the Marvin Gaye tune, “Try it Baby,” featuring Alyn Eva Kelley on mouth trumpet. “Take away your good looks and all your fancy clothes…try it, baby…and you’ll see….baby nobody loves you like me.” Nicely done but I’m looking forward to the next cut, “Slow Hand.” This song has always been a favorite of mine since the Pointer Sisters recorded it, and Jerry’s version with Talk of the Town is equally appealing. “I want someone who will understand…that when it comes to love…I want a slow hand!”

Jerry draws musical inspiration from all over the spectrum of genres, and somehow I’m not surprised at the inclusion of the Billy Vera classic, “At This Moment.” Another favorite song of mine from long ago, it’s a treat to hear this a capella version and know that it’s a favorite of Jerry’s wife, Julie, as well. One of my regrets from last year’s Pocono’s Blues Festival was not escaping the Blues Foundation booth to hear Ruthie Foster play. I’ve heard a lot of great things about her and Jerry’s inclusion of a traditional she recorded, “Woke Up This Morning,” reminds me that I need to see her sing soon.

Another traditional, “New Buryin’ Ground,” showcases the wonderful vocal talent that bassist Ray Ragler brings to the group. “They kept a rollin…kept on rollin…my mother to the grave yard…way over yonder…way over yonder!” It’s only fitting that Jerry and Talk of the Town include the song they sang at Jennifer Lloyd Halsey’s wedding, the Louis Armstrong classic “What a Wonderful World.” The familiar strains of “I see trees of green…red roses too…I see the bloom for me and for you….and I say to myself…what a wonderful world” remind me of the national treasure that Louis Armstrong was, and is. He would be proud of this version of his song.

Next up is Jerry’s new version of the Persuasions classic, “God’s Gift to the World.” Mindful of his work with developmentally disabled adults, Jerry took the time to rework the lyrics so that we appreciate the fact that everyone --- White, Black, Hispanic, Indian, Gay, Handicapped, and for that matter, Straight, are all “God’s Gifts to the World!” I think it’s also fitting that Jerry included a “Persuasions Medley” on this recording as a tribute to his former bandmates and the fans of their music. Jerry and Talk of the Town work their way through several classic Persuasions songs in a fashion that will do his former group proud.

Another singing Lawson, Jerry’s wife, Julie, takes the microphone for the final cut on this record, “Side By Side.” Considering everything that had to happen for this recording to become a reality, “Side By Side” captures the essence of Jerry and Julie’s relationship over the years and everything they’ve gone through, side by side.

Wow. What a great record. I’m mindful of the fact that it includes 20 songs and is over 70 minutes in length, but I honestly don’t know of a single cut that I would choose to exclude. This record flowed from beginning to end and we’re lucky that the powers that be finally brought Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town together to record. A capella singing is a lost art form and indeed fills a niche in the musical spectrum just like blues does. But every once in awhile we’re treated to a really special gift, and this record is one of those.

You can find out more about Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town on their website,, and please do. When you buy their record, read the notes in the wonderfully done cover booklet. You’ll appreciate all of the amazing events that had to happen to bring this wonderful musical collaboration to fruition. And Jerry, whatever you and Talk of the Town do next, don’t keep us waiting this long for your next record.

--- Kyle Deibler


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