The Absolute Sound

Steve Dawson is a versatile Canadian roots musician who’s worked extensively as a solo artist and in a group context. He’s kept busy as a songwriter, sideman, singer, and producer who heads his own label, Black Hen; he’s also a highly respected guitarist. The latter talent is the focus of his most recent solo project, Rattlesnake Cage. Recorded using a single vintage tube Neumann M49 microphone, this all-instrumental album with no overdubs merges a simple but effective recording process with highly intricate playing on superb-sounding guitars, including a jumbo Larrivee, a Weissenborn Hawaiian, a National tricone, and a Taylor 12-string. The close-miked recording reveals in fine detail the timbre of these instruments as well as Dawson’s nimble finger work, and his playing on this all-original set persuasively combines delicacy with gutsiness and a deep sense of traditional roots music beneath which flows an undercurrent of American Primitivism. Dawson’s guitar skills have drawn comparisons to Mississippi John Hurt, T-Bone Burnett, Ry Cooder, and John Fahey. If you like any of those artists or have a fondness for vintage instruments or well-recorded Americana, Dawson’s latest recording may just rattle your cage. JW 

Year: 
2014