Blues & Rythm (UK)

Steve Dawson is a Canadian guitar player (playing solo acoustic here) of considerable ability, and a sensibility that clearly derives form concentrated listening both to the vintage greats of blues and country guitar, and - probably more so - to those later exponents who built on that heritage. The opening instrumental, 'Blind Thomas At The Crime Scene' (like its title), is very John Fahey-ish (although interestingly, some of the playing reminded me more of the young John Renbourn), as is the title track (especially those big, resonant chords at the start) and others, but tracks like 'Flophouse Oratory' or 'Butterfly Stunt' sound a lot more like somebody attempting to carve out a sound of his own. He's fast, but not in a way that makes you think speed is a priority, and in fact he makes good use of changes of pace, along with changes in technique, adding these up to something that seems to make real musical sense. 'The Medicine Show Comes to Avalon' nods to John Hurt, as well as the ragtime guitar stylists of the 1960's and '70's. On 'Lighthouse Avenue' and 'Lockley's Dilemma', I was reminded of Ry Cooder, but that's not to suggest I thought Dawson was copying or impersonating. Anyway, I could work my way through the rest of the tracks in similar fashion, which would be no way to do credit to a musician whose technical skills are more than matched by his musical taste and imagination, and his ability to create instrumental narratives (if that's not too much of an oxymoron) that engage and inform the listener. The closing track, 'The Altar At Center Raven', on twelve string, is a good example of how he can work an evident influence (in this case, Reverend Gary Davis) into something that is very much hiw own. All without overdubs or effects.