Canadian guitarist Steve Dawson has often treated his concert audiences to solo acoustic performances, but his albums have always supported his picking with a full band. On his latest album, Dawson gives listeners an opportunity to hear a conversation between his imagination, fingers and guitars (including 6- and 12-strings, traditional wood bodies and a National tricone), unadorned by other instruments or even vocals. Listeners will quickly realize how easily the rich particulars of a guitar’s sound are subsumed by other instruments, and that freed from the competition of a band, each guitar sings with a unique and detailed voice.
In these eleven performances, Dawson keeps meticulous time, but the tempos and changes flow from each song’s internal rhythms. Dawson is a well-rounded player who weaves together blues, folk, country and jazz, finger-picking ragtime on “The Medicine Shows Comes to Avalon,” playing slide on “Flophouse Oratory,” and adding lovely rolling lines on “Butterfly Stunt.” His originals range from contemplative to up-tempo, ending the album with the 12-string “The Alter at Center Raven.” Fans of Fahey, Kottke and Cooder will recognize Dawson as a kindred soul.