It’s sometimes hard to pinpoint Steve Dawson through the smooth fabric of his music; now on his fifth Black Hen solo record, this sideman, producer, record label owner and gifted multi-instrumentalist has so adeptly woven the threads of multiple musical interests into his records that they sound like addendums to his productions for other people.
Using many of the same studio players (keyboardist Chris Gestrin, bassist Keith Lowe and drummer Geoff Hicks) probably adds to this, but it also might be his low-key vocal presence.
While Dawson’s lyrics are often introspective (Have That Chance) or even jauntily morbid (The Side of the Road), his tone is laconic. No tortured artist, he’s got the even-handed patience of a craftsman, but with the innate gift of someone who can throw out a zinger like Dylan (We Still Won the War).
Of course, there’s also his guitar work, as offhandedly brilliant as any he’s done, flashy at moments, painterly at others. He also makes nice use of talented guests like vocalists Jeanne Tolmie and Jill Barber.