Panpot.ca - Telescope
Steve Dawson's pedal steel guitar flourishes outside the country genre, and much like jazz, sets a mood you can’t relinquish.
The pedal steel guitar has been traditionally pegged to a certain kind of melodic, moody country music. And most of the time, although I always get really excited to hear the instrument, and follow the melody like a drunken man’s eyes on the most promiscuous-looking woman in the bar, the pedal steel normally gets to step to centre stage and shine only once in a song: on the bridge. On Telescope, Steve Dawson liberates the pedal steel from the rigorous strictures of the genre. Or at least partly so. The long, relaxed melodies that the pedal steel seems to lend itself to are still present. But interacting with the ringing voice of the lead instrument are jazzy bass lines; thick, throaty organs; and, on "Speaker Damage," a spooky electric guitar riff over a looped percussion track. On this collection of instrumentals, the pedal steel is the voice of the band. The deliberative, melancholy, distinctly American yearning of the pedal steel sings hauntingly on each track.
Maybe ironically, it’s a song on Telescope that has the pedal steel producing a more traditional, recognizable sound that I really admire. "The Hunt Is On" is a beautifully arranged waltz-tempo song in which the pedal steel and acoustic guitar exchange somber melodic licks worthy of Sun Kil Moon.
But haven’t bands like Japancakes already liberated the pedal steel from its 1950’s country sound? Maybe. But the more pedal steel, and the more experimentation, the better.