For a city-dweller—Dawson hails from Vancouver, BC—this record is thoroughly rustic. Spare, honest arrangements frame a series of generally well-crafted songs throughout this, Dawson’s second solo release (and first of two expected to drop this year). His famous proficiency on guitars is here on fine display, as is his much-improved voice, a thin rasp, like a very young Guy Clark crossed with an older Bruce Cockburn. His songwriting, meanwhile, explores a true fusion of genres, employing traditional, contemporary folk, and delta blues cues in equal measures. The result is a bit uneven, sort of like a series of genre experiments in uneasy sequence, but the individual effect of each track is powerful. Unfortunately, while the music is quite uniformly persuasive, Dawson’s lyrics tend toward unfocused, even awkward metaphor and phrasing: “Silence hits like a hurricane missing its mark” is a typical example.
Vancouver's Steve Dawson has been around and, in the process, has learned a thing or two about making a great-sounding, well-written, modern folk/roots album. His intricate fingerstyle picking is put to good use both on acoustic guitar and slide. His playing has deliberate rough edges that are only slightly rounded from repeated road trips playing for audiences coast to coast. Pump organs, 50-buck Silvertones, pedal steel rigs, wonky wurlitzers and bassy baritone guitars all add to the dusty feel and groove.