Billy_Lawrence_Black_River

What is it that we say around these parts all the time? Something about the streets stay watching or something like that. The streets are often used as a metaphor for your ability to keep your eyes open and ear to the ground so that you don’t miss what’s going on. It is so easy to miss what’s right in front of you today on the music side of the game because quite frankly it’s so much music that even the most ardent fan of the art has to pause with periodic breaks from the onslaught[Cue’s up EPMD’s Please Listen To My Demo].

Fortunately, I was not on pause yesterday when this great track “Black River” from Billy Lawrence strolled down the timeline. Many of you should be familiar with Billy’s 90’s era output songs like “Happiness”, “Up & Down” and her collaboration with MC Lyte “Come On”. Billy also has quite the resume as a songwriter and session musician. Billy Lawrence is part of that rare breed of singer/songwriters where the talent and skill level for both the singing and writing are utopian. In other words sometimes you will find a singer that can just saaaang but their writing leaves a lot to be desired and sometimes you find an excellent writer whose singing leaves a lot to be desired. But when the poetry and performance line up, that’s something special.

“Black River” has the rhythm and the blues. The rock and the roll. Country and cool. The gospel story and soul all wrapped in a production mélange of the electronic and acoustic. This is no throwback sound this is right now and contextually the scene that Billy Lawrence is painting with her melody and words are as vivid as five minutes ago. Billy is getting right to the heart of the matter, stripping away artifice and telling us a story that examines the core of our humanity.

Take me to the Black River
It’s where I hear they go
When they need some cleaning
Purify my soul

Amen

Ivan Orr is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and writer. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia Ivan was involved with the forming and nascent days of The Music Resource Center as its first Program Director. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Music, Ivan currently resides in Richmond, VA where he maintains an active performance and production schedule while serving as the Music Editor for Grown Folks Music, a position he has held since 2010.