The first of two Steve Dawson releases slated to come out this year, Waiting for the Lights to Come Up is the third solo record from this Vancouver-based multi-instrumentalist/slide guitar master/producer/record label exec/general overachiever. As on 2005’s We Belong to the Gold Coast, this album sees Dawson playing multiple instruments on several of the tunes; catch him on the tricone, acoustic, electric and baritone guitar on the waltzy toe-tapper “Dry as Our Luck,” (not to mention the mandotar and pump organ) or manning the ukeleles, weissenborn and electric guitars on the vintage Hawaiian tune with a twist, “Swinging in a Hammock.” But while the songs on this album still incorporate the blues, folk, Hawaiian and occasionaly twangy bluegrass sounds Dawson fans know and love, one thing we hear of more on this album than previous efforts is his voice. Nine of the 15 cuts feature Dawson’s singing, a big leap from only five tracks on Gold Coast. Sure, Dawson’s voice isn’t the strongest one on the roots scene, but the mixture of well-penned original tunes (The opener “At Arms Length” and “Today’s Surprise” being my favourites) and covers (Dylan’s “Walkin’ Down the Line” among them) make for a solid album. Also present is a cast of talented collaborators, with Chris Gestrin on organ, Scott Amendola on percussion, Keith Lowe manning the bass, Jeanne Tolmie offering haunting background vocals on a few tracks and a few others sitting in for the occasional tune. Indeed, Waiting for the Lights is an accurate snapshot of the accomplished musician’s career; solid songwriting, outstanding musicianship, great musical friends and a voice sure to get even better as he flexes it more. I already can’t wait to hear what comes down the line when Telescope hits the shelves later this year.