Reviews for Rattlesnake Cage (2014)

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"...The most impressive acoustic guitarist to come down the pike in years."

The standout acoustic blues disc of the year, Rattlesnake Cage (Black Hen), showcases Steve Dawson's brilliance. He wrote all of the songs, produced and mixed the disc, and plays gloriously on this all-instrumental collection. Dawson employs a number of guitars: a Jumbo Larrivee, a Weissenborn built by Michael Dunn, a National Tricone and a Taylor 12-string. He also notes that he used a Neumann M 49 microphone "that had been hanging from the rafters of a church in Detroit for 50 years."

Steve Dawson had a formidable career as a performer and producer in his native Canada (including 7 Juno Awards as an artist and producer), before relocating to Nashville, Tennessee. He has a new recording "Rattlesnake Cage" (Black Hen Music) that consists of solo recordings that are informed by the deep traditions of blues ragtime, jaza and even Hawaiian music, but taking those influences in unexpected directions.

"Dawson only recently hangs his hat in Nashville, but sounds like he’s lived in the American south all of his days."

"Rattlesnake Cage is a breathtaking album of original roots and blues music from Steve Dawson, and it is a must-have for lovers of the acoustic guitar."

"...It all hangs together in fine style as glorious showcase for Dawson's superlative guitar playing."

"This is acoustic guitar music as pure and as intimate as it gets."

"Steve Dawson, of Vancouver and (as of late) Nashville, is Canada's leading roots-music impresario, a man who wears -- literally and metaphorically -- several hats."

"This album is a must to all lovers of good guitar music."

"The closemiked recording reveals in fine detail the timbre of these instruments as well as Dawson’s nimble finger work, and his playing on this all-original set persuasively combines delicacy with gutsiness and a deep sense of traditional roots music beneath which flows an undercurrent of American Primitivism."

"Steve Dawson’s Rattlesnake Cage is a gift to the ears, and the soul as well. Stunning in it’s immediacy, and simplicity, this music awakens the spirit."

"These performances are filled with fluent grace and genuine warmth."

"This is acoustic heaven, using every old school method as possible, Dawson takes the listener on a journey."

"Dawson is easily a master guitarist who presents an instrumental CD with a level of expertise that has a certain satisfying flow."

"...If you are even remotely a fan of the guitar, then this is a release for you."

"The Canandian native gets into your head, into your aura. His musical stew offers a hint of blues for the soul, unerring tempo for the mind, ragtime for a historical bounce, and whimsy for the romantic in all of us."

I first discovered Dawson a few years back, he was one of the main forces behind the award winning Tribute to the Mississippi Sheiks project, and I have been very impressed by his talent. Rattlesnake Cage is one man, four guitars; a Jumbo Larivee, a Weissenborn, a National Tricone and a Taylor 12-string, an old microphone with some history, eleven original songs, and some fingers and slides. Steve includes a variety of instrumentals featuring intricate fingering, ringing tone and the impassioned and skillful playing of a master craftsman.

"Using a few different guitars and a single Neumann M49 microphone he works his way through various genres, bending them and twisting them out of shape and into his own personal sound."

“Rattlesnake Cage is an album that refers to all the places where Dawson has been and to all genres of music he has heard. "

"Recorded with vintage hardware, the guitar sound is as rich as tiramisu."

"When country-folk contrarian Townes Van Zandt quipped that there are only two kinds of songs, the blues and zip-a-dee-doo-dah, he could have been talking about Rattlesnake Cage."

"Some have even dubbed him the Canadian Ry Cooder, in reference to Cooder’s constant work as a roots revivalist. Not far off the mark when you consider Dawson’s acclaimed Mississippi Sheiks Tribute Project..."

"Dexterous, of course, with a grounding in folk-blues, the record seems unfettered (the title notwithstanding) and relishes in the sound of a guitar for its own sake. It’s not lofty, in other words, but earthy and homespun."

"Southern narratives are evoked with songs wuch as The Medicine Show Comes to Avalon, there's a taste of ragtime in J.R. Lockley's Dilemma and blues to found in The Altar at Centre Raven."

"The fluidity of Steve’s playing makes what he does sound so effortless that it’s easy to forget that it takes years of disciplined practice to achieve such an apparent simplicity."

"Recorded with vintage hardware, the guitar sound is as rich as tiramisu."

"His approach to fingerstyle guitar intentionally references parts of roots music history, pioneers like Mississippi John Hurt, and others."

"The guy, as you already know if you're familiar with his catalogue, is an extraordinary fingerpicker, and Rattlesnake Cage brings the old Takoma label's early days screaming right up to the present."

"For Dawson, the move to Nashville spells a new beginning. And a few other things."

"Never before has Dawson sounded so incredibly free."

"It is both a subtle and intricate album. The music lulls the listener as it slips into the background, which is due to Dawson making it look and feel so easy."

"The moods ranges from "Flophouse Oratory," which stops, starts and weaves together like an old rural Southern storyline, to "The Medicine Show Comes to Avalon," Dawson's delightful tribute to Mississippi John Hurt."

"He provides hot licks from deep roots starting with "Blind Thomas At The Crime Scene" and doesn't stop 'til both you and he are satisfied."

"Steve Dawson offers a double gift, giving listeners the album that have been waiting for somewhat patiently, and honoring the American Primitive tradition with his obvious respect for the genre."

"If you love acoustic guitar picking especially in the style of Kottke/Lang and John Hurt/Gary Davis, this is a treasure."

"Listeners will quickly realize how easily the rich particulars of a guitar’s sound are subsumed by other instruments, and that freed from the competition of a band, each guitar sings with a unique and detailed voice."

"Steve Dawson is a Canadian guitar player (playing solo acoustic here) of considerable ability, and a sensibility that clearly derives form concentrated listening both to the vintage greats of blues and country guitar, and - probably more so - to those later exponents who built on that heritage."

"On his latest album, Dawson gives listeners an opportunity to hear a conversation between his imagination, fingers and guitars."

"Rattlesnake Cage is a masterful set of acoustic guitar, with new treasures being revealed during each listen. Steve Dawson makes it sound pretty effortless, but guitar fans will truly appreciate what an impressive work this is."

 "There’s ragtime (J.R. Lockely’s Dilemma), some jaunty blues (The Altar at Center Raven) and a whole lot of bewilderingly intricate fingerpicking that will have you doubting what you’re hearing."

 "...Revels in that simplicity on his latest, an instrumental guitar album showcasing his various styles of fingerpicking and slide work without overdubs or effects."

"His playing on this all-original set persuasively combines delicacy with gutsiness and a deep sense of traditional roots music beneath which flows an undercurrent of American Primitivism."

"Meditative at times, explosive at others, you can easily get lost in its winding path, wonder where an hour went, and wonder why you are suddenly uplifted."

"...Dawson, who recently relocated to Nashville, simply makes use of his array of guitars (six- and 12-string, National tricone guitar, and a Weissenborn Hawaiian guitar) and his fingers to revisit the land of early Americana."

"Ragtime, fingerstyle, slide, gospel, resophonic, country — all manner of old-time guitar is here, recorded and mastered oh so well for optimum enjoyment."

"...Not since John Fahey or Bert Jansch in the 1960s have I been so mesmerized by one man playing one guitar with no rhythm section or even a voice in the mix."

 "There aren’t many musicians brave or gifted enough to pull off a purely solo performance like this, which makes its appearance even more noteworthy."

"Rattlesnake Cage not only shows that Dawson is an awesome talent, but presents a mix of folk and blues style Americana picking that is great to listen to."

 "A solo excursion by Dawson, captured spontaneously and presented without overdubs or effects, it's an absolutely dazzling collection of acoustic explorations."

"Dawson weaves tapestries in song, intricate and beautiful, the sort of thing that could play nonstop and not get old."

"Dawson  delivers  eleven instrumentals, all self penned, that are minor masterpieces of the art of solo finger picking blues guitar with cascades of notes flowing from his fingers."

"It’s a tour de force performance and I can only imagine what the additional layer of seeing him “live” does to upping the artistry even higher."

"...The Nashville-based Vancouverite’s first true solo release {is} a wonderful foray into what’s often called the American Primitive style of guitar music."

"Beautifully and skillfully executed, Rattlesnake Cage should reward the listener with new insights each time it’s opened."

"...Dawson’s virtuosity and imagination are front and centre, reminiscent of albums in the 1970s by John Fahey and Leo Kottke..."

"...It’s just a joy to listen to and fans of acoustic guitar will be blown away by this recording."

"...stunning acoustic guitar music..."

"...Killer stuff that’s simply a cut above."

"Dawson has issued a CD of instrumental guitar tracks that simply must be heard.  I got this disc in the mail last weekend, and I have played it at least once a day since then..."

"...Steve’s picking on these cuts is exemplary, and reminiscent of the Sixties works of John Fahey and Ry Cooder, and also shows what a tremendous talent Steve has for the old-time feel of these tunes."

"Dexterous, of course, with a grounding in folk-blues, the record seems unfettered (the title notwithstanding) and relishes in the sound of a guitar for its own sake..."

"Eleven tunes in total to send almost every other acoustic player on earth back to their bedrooms as he showcases his astounding technique..."

"Dawson brings the unusual titles of his blues to life with artistry that paints sonic pictures encompassed in the sounds he elicits from the strings of his guitars."