Michael Lawson Records At Legendary Muscle Shoals Studio For New Album ‘Tennessee River Shakedown’

It’s a roughly 36-hour drive from Michael Lawson’s original hometown of Seattle to the legendary Muscle Shoals recording studio – FAME Studios – in Alabama. But the roots musician was inspired by a body of water about a three-mile drive further east: the Tennessee River. The result is an infectious new single entitled “Not Alone” from his new studio album Tennessee River Shakedown was released on June 14. 

“The goal was to write a collection of songs that captured the history and spirit of the music of the Tennessee River,” Lawson says of the album, produced by Jimbo Hart (Jason Isbell). Lawson worked with what he called “the Dream Makers,” a group of Muscle Shoals session musicians and Hart that Lawson used to perfectly capture a sound that’s simultaneously current and timeless.

“Playing with session guys of that caliber gave me a new way to think about songwriting,” Lawson says. “Since those guys could play everything, it meant that I could write anything. And because we all mesh so well as a band in the studio, the songs always seem to work.”

What definitely seems to work is the first single “Not Alone.” Citing influences such as Bob Seger, Elvis and Boz Scaggs, Lawson crafts this nugget to perfection, bringing to mind credible contemporaries like Matthew Sweet and Collective Soul’s Ed Roland. Thanks to a steady beat by drummer Justin Holder, Lawson glides into the song effortlessly with its sweet, gorgeous melody and almost cavity-inducing arrangement.

Lawson says the song, which he co-wrote with Hart, is about “the craziness of today’s world and especially how easy it is to get down,” leaving one losing sight of their dreams and aspirations. “Ultimately, this tune is fundamentally about rejecting the pressures and pitfalls associated with today’s world and having the courage to forge one’s own path and identity,” he says.

It’s also a song he “channeled,” simply being more a vessel for the delectable pop gem. “Not Alone” exemplifies his earnest, roots-saturated approach to songwriting and evoking memories of the artists who recorded in Muscle Shoals including the Rolling Stones, the late Greg Allman, Drive-By Truckers and Isbell among others.

Listen on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/album/71jvYLh9SuEbXQd8OKGe87?si=RZJ8PaQzRpqoRj3RzREaBQ&nd=1&dlsi=58ec12e173d541a2

Both the single and album are a culmination of a 25-year absence for Lawson from the music scene. Cutting his teeth with a pre-grunge group in Seattle called SGM, the musician co-fronted an alternative rock group that dissolved in 1995. “I was so heartbroken I took about a 25-year break,” Lawson says.

In 2019, Lawson returned to music, playing open mics and honing his craft. Then the pandemic hit. Undeterred, Lawson called Rodney Hall of FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals out of the blue, sending him a demo and wanting to record at the legendary space. Hall agreed, and Lawson was on the right path. “My life was forever changed.”

Tennessee River Shakedown is the first full-length effort from Lawson after three EP releases and an album the musician is keen to tour behind. “The songs are great, and I for one, am ready to work.”