Phoenix Blues Society
After hearing several of the past few releases from Black Hen Music from artists like Jim Byrnes, the Sojourners, and the wonderful Mississippi Sheiks Tribute Project, all of which were guided and supported by producer/guitarist Steve Dawson, I was curious about his own recordings. Dawson recently released his fifth solo effort, Nightshade, on Black Hen Music, and it’s amazingly diverse set of roots and blues.
Throughout Nightshade, Dawson sparkles on the stringed instrument of your choice…..acoustic and electric guitars, banjo, mandotar, National steel, slide guitar, Weissenborn, and pedal steel. He also has a relaxed and warm vocal style that is a smooth fit with his compositions.
Among the highlights are the somber “Darker Still,” “Have That Chance,” the banjo-driven “The Side of the Road” (influenced by Mississippi bluesman Skip James), the optimistic “Walk On,” “Fairweather Friends,” “We Won the War,” and the rocker, “Slow Turn.” The lone non-Dawson composition recalls the Mississippi Sheiks project, a great modernization of Walter Vinson’s “Gulf Coast Bay.”
The backing musicians (Geoff Hicks – drums, Chris Gestrin – keyboards, and Keith Lowe (bass) complement Dawson as if they’ve been playing together for years – actually they have – as do the backing vocals provided by Alice Dawson, Jenne Tolmie, and Jill Barber.
If you’ve recently enjoyed the impressive Black Hen Music releases, you will certainly find a lot to appreciate with this latest release by the guiding hand behind those efforts. Steve Dawson is considered a musical treasure by his many fans in Canada. It’s past time for him to be heard by a wider audience and Nightshade has the potential to be that stepping stone.