The Laws are a law onto themselves, with a DIY work ethic that's made them the most successful Canadian duo since Ian & Sylvia, and which should be taught in business college.
The pair has just blown in from Nashville at the bottom end of a US tour in support of current cookie Try Love but Michelle’s gracious enough to go with the flow.
“It was a great tour. We got good response at the shows and the album got some really nice reviews. The title says it; with all the bitterness and suffering in the world, it’s important to speak up for love, for optimism. We thought we’d put some love out there”
As is usual on a Laws album, the material deals with relationships and their ups and downs, managing for the most part to come down on the side of hope, of optimism, of the stance that love and time conquers all.
Having lived, loved and worked side by side for this long, Michelle knows a thing or two about intricate relationships.
“I think the fact that John and I got together when we were a little older, we already had a lot of stuff out of the way. Also very early on John said, " This side is the business and this side is the relationship", and we’ve managed to maintain that."
A relationship of another sort brings The Laws to Toronto next Saturday as part of the Mary Eagan Memorial Gardens Concert at Scarborough’s St. Nicholas Church. The affair is a fundraiser for the Mary Eagan Memorial Gardens project, which builds gardens within cancer treatment centres as places of respite for folks and their families in treatment programs. The driving force behind the project is Terry Eagan, a Massachusetts native and fan of hockey and folk music as played on both sides of the border, so it was only a matter of time before players and fan met up.
“We first met Terry at the Ottawa Folk Fest. He was familiar with our music. and when he told us about the Mary Eagan Gardens concerts, we had no hesitation. Terry’s an incredible guy with a strong sense of community”.
The concert also doubles as the album release show for ‘Try Love’ and kicks off a tour which plays Ontario, Alberta and the West Coast before closing out back in Ontario June 11 at the Bluegrass in the Country Fest on Manitoulan Island.
Musically, the album’s a mix of countrified ballads and what The Laws call their’grassy folk”, songs having an overlay which references bluegrass music. The tunes are written around John’s acoustic guitar and Michelle’s electric bass and they always leave lots of room for collaborating with others. In this case, main contributor is producer Cormier, showing up on banjo, mandolin, keyboards, percussion, acoustic guitar and harmonies.
It’s a sound more about folk and roots Americana than current trends in country music, which works to set them apart just enough. Notable exception here is the sole cover, Gordon Lightfoot’s “Wherefore and Why.” upon which they drop the full bluegrass hammer for a rollicking, smile-inducing workout.
The vintage feel’s also all over their bourbon and honey harmonies, oddly reminiscent of The Everly Brothers.
“ The songs took a couple of years to write and we were able to go from recording to master in four days. As to which ones made it to the album, we went in with a bunch of tunes, sat down and played them acoustically for (Producer) J.P. Cormier and let him pick which ones went on. Apart from four or five we had to have, it was all up to him”.
When it comes time to hustling the product, ain't no dust on this dynamic duo either. It’s a pop music staple to say you’ll play anywhere to promote your music but when The Laws say it, they mean they’ll even come to your house to do the gig.
They’re regulars on the fast-growing ‘house concert’ circuit where someone'll have 40 or 50 folks over and have one of their fave acts do an intimate show. A $20 donation is common in this situation and with no additional overhead, as the acts tend to be in the area as part of a larger tour, it’s not a bad night’s work in front of a guaranteed appreciative audience.
The Laws have even managed to put their own spin on the format by offering combo concerts and cooking demos. The couple have been cooking their own meals on the road for a long time and in 2005, put out a cookbook of road recipes.
Originally intended as a promo piece accompanying an album, once it got onto the TV morning show circuit, the cookbook took on a life of its own, spawning an offshoot series of home concerts involving The Laws playing’n’cookin’ in your kitchen.
Always with an eye to added value for the fans, coming soon on the heels of the Try Love album release, The Laws keep the vibe alive with a second cookbook and accompanying DVD. Special added value for the Toronto show comes in the person of Detroit flat-picking sensation Jason Dennie, who joins The Laws to kick up the gig’s foot-stompin’ factor..
As to why Try Love is being debuted in Toronto, it’s all about the love. Love for the musical community of which they’re part, a love for Terry Eagan and his mission of mercy.
“ We count ourselves as part of the family of musicians who’ve played for the Mary Eagan Gardens concerts both in the US and Canada. Terry Eagan is an incredible person and we feel honoured to share his vision and commitment to providing these sanctuaries for cancer patients”.
The Laws top a four-act folk/country bill April 16 at St Nicholas Church in Scarborough, ON.