Having released two albums under his name last year, Steve Dawson finds himself in the unlikely position of receiving a lot of notice for Telescope, an entirely instrumental album centred around his pedal-steel playing. With a Juno nod and a recent win at the Western Canadian Music Awards for the album, Dawson welcomes the interest, but admits to having not expected it.
"It is a little weird," notes Dawson. "But I don't really think of it as a pedal-steel record. I feel that the instrument gets pigeon-holed, and prefer to think of Telescope as a project that just happens to have pedal steel as the main musical voice. Anytime you get any kind of acclaim for an entirely instrumental album it's a nice surprise. I mean, it's not exactly the most commercially viable record," laughs Dawson. "But it was a great experience, trying to create interesting textural sonics with the instrument, and I'm thrilled that people seem to enjoy it."
In preparation for Telescope, Dawson travelled to Los Angeles to work with acclaimed pedal-steel player Greg Leisz. Little known outside those familiar with session musicians, Leisz has enjoyed a long and varied career, working with the likes of Wilco, Robert Plant, Bad Religion and Beck, among many others. In his ongoing career as both musician and producer, Dawson acknowledges the similarities between his own history and that of Leisz.
"Yeah, I do end up working on a lot of stuff, and flying under the radar. I just really enjoy the studio process and everything that's involved. The role of a producer is to be the one with the overall vision for a project—it's turning a small idea into a finished project. Knowing when to guide musicians, and when to sit back and just let them play. You have to be aware of what people are capable of, and to be careful not to instruct people too much."
Having also just been named Producer of the Year at the WCMAs, Dawson has had the opportunity to work with many respected names in the industry, and to great acclaim. To that end, Dawson is thrilled to finally be releasing his labour of love, a tribute to obscure 1930s' band the Mississippi Sheiks, which he has helmed over the last few years. Things About Comin' My Way features the likes of Bruce Cockburn, Madeleine Peyroux, John Hammond and Bill Frisell, among others, and the album also showcases Dawson's work as both producer and musician.
"The Mississippi Sheiks recorded in the early 1930s, and they basically invented a form of string-band blues that more or less faded away. I love their music, so I wanted to create a tribute album with different artists paying tribute without trying to simply recreate the songs. It's been the longest project I've ever been involved in—we've had 17 artists working on 17 songs, and I've recorded almost everything on the album in my studio, as well as serving as producer to the project. I'm really proud of the results."
SAT, OCT 10 (7:30 pm)
Haven Social Club (15120 Stony Plain Road)
All Ages, $15