We Belong To The Gold Coast (2005)
Black Hen Music proudly presents the new album from multi Juno Award-winner Steve Dawson, “We Belong to the Gold Coast”.
Steve has evolved into a musical chameleon, whether appearing with his group Zubot and Dawson, the avant-folk quartet The Great Uncles of the Revolution, blues legend Jim Byrnes, performing his own solo shows, or producing acclaimed albums in the studio. On stages ranging from Dobrofest in Slovakia to the renowned Monterey Jazz Festival and almost every major music festival in Canada, Steve is constantly striving for unique sounds and approaches to acoustic music. His instrumental abilities have landed him on stages with artists as diverse as Bob Brozman, Gil Scott-Heron, John Lee Hooker, Oregon, Oh Susannah, and Francois Houle, to name just a few. When the renowned guitarist/songwriter Kelly Joe Phelps put down the slide guitar to focus on songwriting a few years ago, he called on Steve to play the slide parts for the album “Slingshot Professionals”.
Steve’s arsenal of instruments that he plays always grows, but includes all kinds of guitars, banjo, ukulele, Weissenborn Hawaiian guitar, dobro, lap steel, and most recently the pedal steel, for which he received a Canada Council grant last year to study with the legendary Greg Leisz. Steve is also an acknowledged triple-threat in the recording studio, known as an innovative and experimental engineer, an award-winning producer and an in-demand musician at the same time. His production talents have resulted in recent successes for Zubot and Dawson, blues legend Jim Byrnes, and a Juno Award for songwriter Jenny Whiteley, while his studio work as a musician adds up to over 50 albums.
On “We Belong to the Gold Coast” Steve set out to explore the territory between old and new, antique and modern - both with musical style and sonic experimentation. Played on various acoustic and slide guitars, we catch glimpses of acoustic blues, early Hawaiian, jazz and pop music, mixed with modern sounds and textures. Influenced by the production sounds of Tchad Blake, Brian Wilson and Jon Brion, Steve has experimented for years with recording techniques on acoustic instruments, and this album is a showcase of truly exceptional sounds. Most of the basic tracks for this album were recorded live in the studio with Keith Lowe on bass (Fiona Apple, Bill Frisell), and Elliot Polsky on drums and percussion. Steve then dug into the studio to work on the overdubs and textural elements, and then took the tracks into a Vancouver church to record natural reverbs.
The centerpieces to each section of “We Belong to the Gold Coast” are the 3 Hawaiian songs that appear throughout; “Patches”, Irving Berlin’s “An Orange Grove in California” and Steve’s own “Red Sand Serenade”. Steve has studied early Hawaiian music extensively and wanted to record some songs that explored the pre-1940’s era of that music, and captured its essence, while at the same time used instruments and sounds that were not originally associated with that style.
Acoustic blues is another clear influence, and Steve has arranged two 1930’s songs by the Mississippi Sheiks, “World Gone Wrong” and “Livin’ in a Strain” with a fresh approach that highlights his creative fingerstyle approach to the guitar. Original songs and instrumentals make up the rest of the album, many of which feature guest musicians that Steve has worked with along the way. The songs “Slip By” “Photograph” and “Angeline”, a song that refers to the wife of Blind Willie Johnson, are the most fully orchestrated pieces on the album, and feature Steve and the band, along with guests such as J.T. King’s Jeanne Tolmie on backup vocals, and Chris Gestrin on all sorts of strange keyboards. Steve’s musical compadre, Jesse Zubot makes an appearance with the string quartet that he arranged for “Ruby” and “The Gold Coast Revisited”.
Steve has developed a unique voice on the guitar that has taken some major steps since his first solo album, “Bug Parade”, that will continue to progress, along with his compositions and recording style. “We Belong to the Gold Coast” is an exciting step in the constantly evolving career of this world-renowned, award winning and eclectic artist. Watch for Steve on tour soon, performing solo or with his Gold Coast Ensemble.