World Beat Canada
It used to be called a ‘studio tan’, that milky pallor that emphasizes the white skin of working musicians. In another era, they might have be mistaken for aristocracy but in this world, they’re just starving artists who don’t get enough vitamin D. Musicians aren’t inherently evil or drawn to the dark side. It’s just an occupational hazard that when they are out performing it’s more often dark than not, and when they‘re creating in studio, outside windows are usually forsaken for sound-proofing. But, Vancouver’s Steve Dawson has a different reason to linger in the shadows on his new release, Nightshade. Aside from his vaunted abilities to make any kind of slid, plucked or strummed guitar swing, twang or cry, the soft-spoken, gentile troubadour admits a fascination with dark fiction and film noir. “I read dark stuff, watch dark movies and am drawn to that kind of subject matter” he confesses. “I don’t feel that dark as a person. Maybe writing music like this is a way to get it out of my system.” Formerly, in collaboration with wildly innovative west coast fiddler, Jesse Zubot, Steve Dawson invented a rootsy, jazzy interface the pair dubbed ‘Strang”. Through subsequent solo projects and in the development of his own Black Hen Music label, Dawson has become a kind of roundhouse through whom a rotation of organic-oriented west coast artists pass in bringing their works to fruition. On Nightshade, he surrounds himself with champions of this community like Vancouver’s most creative keyboardist, Chris Gestrin, Keith Low on bass and Geoff Hicks on drums. Then, unassumingly he takes hold of the microphone to add his lyrical voice to the instrumental excellence he’s better known for. We tip our hat to No Depression Magazine for coining the most succinct summation of this achievement, “Mr. Dawson is the T-Bone Burnett of Canada.” Bright lights blazing out through Nightshade include the bittersweet opener, Torn and Frayed and the equally hard luck, Fairweather Friends.