October 4, 2012

Acoustic duo open Palmer Street's 25th season


---- — PLATTSBURGH — Eddy Lawrence is back.

Maybe not exactly the way he was before, but with all the heart, soul and courage it took to recover and rehab from a dog attack two years ago.

Friday evening, Eddy and Kim Lawrence open the 25th season of the Palmer Street Coffeehouse in Plattsburgh.

“We have a lot of new material and also some of our greatest hits,” Eddy said. “One thing happened with me, I became interested in some instruments because of my hand issue. I have been playing a Venezuelan cuatro. I don’t play it in the standard way. I take some of my old songs and adapt them or some traditional songs.”

He has also picked up the baritone ukulele, and Kim has branched out to mandolin and baritone guitar.

During their two-year hiatus, Eddy worked for Tribal Spirit Records recording pow-wow drumming.

“It was a lot of fun. It was really successful. We won the best pow-wow recordings for two years in a row at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards,” he said.

Born and raised in Birmingham, Ala., and of Cherokee descent, Eddy lived a decade in New York City where he generated buzz on the 1980s East Village music scene.

Dirty Linen, Acoustic Guitar and The Village Voice are among the publications in which his songs and recordings received critical acclaim. He cut his chops with LESR, a seminal roots-rock band, before releasing his 1986 debut vinyl, “Walker County,” an acoustic tribute to his sweet Alabama home. “Up the Road” was his 1998 sophomoric country-rock effort. A year later, he released “Whiskers & Scales and Other Tall Tales.” The dobro of Fats Kaplan and fiddle of Kenny Kosek are featured on “Used Parts,” his first CD release in 1992. It was the same year he relocated to the North Country.

Four years later, he turned his creative lens on “Locals,” which was recorded in his solar-powered studio/cabin. He explored Native Americana on his 2001 release, “Going to Water.” Three years later, Eddy released “Inside My Secret Pocket,” a mix of acoustic and musical songs. In 2008, he unplugged for “My Second Wife’s First Album,” which featured Kim on upright bass.

On his Snow Plow Records label, he released recordings by other Native American artists, including “Spirit Fire” by Bear Fox; “Rarennenha: wi” (country music sung by Eddy and Teddy), which was nominated for Best Linguistic Recording for the 2007 Native American Music Awards; and “Legion Stomp” by The Thundertones, which was nominated for Best Instrumental Recording at the 2006 Native American Music Awards.

The Palmer Street Coffeehouse is the Lawrences’ fourth gig in several months.

His recovery had two elements: mental and physical.

Eddy and Brutus were in the studio when he took the basset hound out for a walk. 

In the aftermath, the Lawrences learned the dog had attacked his previous owners. Though the former owners had attachments to the dog since he was a puppy, Brutus was removed from their home when he attempted to attack their child. 

After the attack on Eddy, the Lawrences wanted the dog euthanized, but it was instead moved out of state.

“The most serious long-term injury is my left hand,” Eddy said. “I had to relearn how to play, essentially. My little finger and ring finger were damaged to a point the doctors don’t think I will get full use of it back again.”

He went through physical therapy in Potsdam and Burlington. He also saw a hand specialist in Burlington and one of the nation’s top hand specialists in Boston. He was told the same thing by all the doctors: He could have surgery on his hand to experience less pain and have more mobility. Surgery, however, was not a good option for the musician.

“I could lose muscle memory, and the joints could fuse,” Eddy said. “For most people, it’s not a big deal, but for me it would be.” 

On his road to recovery, one physical therapist had him play guitar and fiddle. She told him playing his instruments were his best therapy. 

“At that point, it was eight months into my ordeal. I had been struggling. I had been playing electric guitar. That’s so much easier to play. The guys in the River Mohawk Band, I continued playing with them. They were my friends and just laughed when I made mistakes,” he said.

Unplugged presented a different challenge.

“The acoustic thing was much harder. It really hit hard, right at home,” he said.

Mornings are iffy for him. He gets up very early to practice scales.

“I run through all my keys on the guitar. I play major scales and minor scales. I practice like I was just started out to play. I do that for several hours every morning. That keeps me limber enough to play. If I don’t, the stiffness comes back,” Eddy said. 

“The pain issue is a constant thing for me. I just endure the pain. I don’t like taking painkillers. I have to take some anti-inflammation drugs because I will be too stiff.”

He’s putting the attack behind him as much as he can and doesn’t want to be known as the musician who got bit by the dog.

“I’ve really become aware,” Eddy said. “Fifty years of putting my hands in danger and never thinking about it. It’s something I did a million times, walk the dog. Who would think it would lead to that?”

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WHAT: Palmer Street Coffeehouse.

WHO: Eddy and Kim Lawrence.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday. Doors open at 7 p.m.

WHERE: Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Plattsburgh, 4 Palmer St.

ADMISSION: $10 at the door.