Georgia Straight - Telescope
A colour photograph of a Baldwin Fun Machine—a cheesy electronic organ much favoured by pop ironists—decorates the inside cover of Steve Dawson's all-instrumental Telescope. But the real focus of the prolific bandleader and producer's second release this year, after February's song-oriented Waiting for the Lights to Come Up, is a machine that's hardly any fun at all.
At least that was my reaction to the pedal-steel guitar, an instrument that I've tried and utterly failed to master. Steel guitar sounds simple, but in order to cut it on-stage or in the studio you've got to have the harmonic knowledge of a great pianist, the dexterity of a jazz drummer, and the reflexes of a test pilot-attributes Dawson seems to have in spades. Hell, he even makes playing steel sound like fun on the woozy, stomping "The Gunslinger Retreats and Lurks Underground", which mixes an anthemic country melody with a side order of '60s lounge.
Steel is not the only instrument Dawson excels at: here, he also plays ukulele, banjo, pump organ, marxophone, piano, and glockenspiel, along with a truckload of more conventional guitars. With Chris Gestrin contributing various keyboards—including, naturally, Fun Machine—and the rock-solid rhythm section of bassist Keith Lowe and drummer Scott Amendola holding everything together, Telescope is both a great band effort and a beautiful solo statement from one of Vancouver's finest musicians.
- Alexander Varty