Sing Out! The Folk Song Magazine
Played horizontally, the pedal steel is a variation of slide guitar, with a series of foot pedals and knee levers that raise or lower the pitch of the individual ten strings. It was a staple of many a Western swing or country band for decades. Vancouver, B.C., multi-instrumentalist, producer and songwriter Dawson, under a grant from the Canadian Arts Council, has been studying the instrument with the legendary Greg Leisz since 2005. This 10-track, ensemble-based project is the first result--all instrumental with a crack, jazz-oriented band in tow that prove experts at emphasizing melody, cadence and, above all, reciprocity, while displaying alternating amounts of both structure and improvisation.
Indeed, joined by Keith Lowe (Bill Frisell) on acoustic and electric bass, Chris Gestrin (Randy Bachman) on keyboards, fun machine, clavioline as well as moog and Scott Amendola (T.J. Kirk) on drums, Dawson's compositions shift moods and atmospherics on a dime--from a haunting, Brian Eno-like serendipitous ambience on "Caballero's Dream" or "The Hunt Is On" to an aura of edginess in an environment of barely controlled distortion on tracks like "Keith Lowe," or the bluesily raucous "Speaker Damage," which also features a wailing guest shot from Ottawa's ace harmonica player Steve Marriner.
Further selections that not only reveal Dawson's accomplished command of the pedal steel's whorl of wonderfully benumbing nuances, but also expose his abilities on ukulele, banjo (employed most effectively on the dynamic "Fun Machine Two"), pump organ, marxophone, piano and glockenspiel in addition to a phalanx of other guitars, include the widescreen "Gunslinger Retreats and Lurks Underground" (with some phenomenal pedal steel and organ interplay as the climax approaches), another blue-stinged drama titled "No One Goes To The Park When It Rains" and the exorcistic "1000 Year Old Egg." Wow.--GvonT
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