minor 7th

Day was sliding toward night, with Steve Dawson's "Rattlesnake Cage" along for the ride, his Jumbo Larivee guitar resonating rich and mellow. Hoping to bask in the daily miracle of transitional light, I crank up the stereo and step onto the back deck. Sweet blue sky is fading to bottomlessness. Then, as if on cue, a lone bat appears, circling in wide arcs, swooping and dipping in some symbiotic rhythm to Dawson's "The Medicine Show Comes to Avalon." With a rolling fingerpicking technique that recalls Mississippi John Hurt, Dawson and that acrobatic bat go at it like trapeze artists, steady and determined but light as a feather. Song and bat put on their own medicine show, illuminating the wonder of nature as shadows lengthen interminably before disappearing. As the following song, the CD's title track, lilts in, lone bat is joined by two others, each maintaining a separate non-overlapping orbit. Dawson's careful intertwining of three themes support the three beautifully erratic flights of the early-evening airborn insect-eaters. Back inside, leaving the bats to their work, it's and time to turn on the lights, and things slow down – and uncannily, again – movements seem choreographed to Dawson's sensuous, languous, lovely "Lighthouse Avenue." Talk about synchronicity – that was one magically coincidental triple-play of music. But perhaps that's the effect that Dawson's fretboard talent can have on a person. The Canandian native gets into your head, into your aura. His musical stew offers a hint of blues for the soul, unerring tempo for the mind, ragtime for a historical bounce, and whimsy for the romantic in all of us. No flash and mirrors, either, as he says on the liner notes: "I stuck a Neumann M49 microphone (that had been hanging from the rafters of a church in Detroit for 50 years) in front of me … no overdubs or effects, just some fingers, slides and guitars." While all 11 tracks were nicely penned by Dawson, you might hear the hint of an echo of some pretty wonderful influences: John Fahey, Peter Lang, Leo Kottke, Ry Cooder. This pleasant disc is truly about a man and his guitars – six- and 12-string acoustics, a National Tricone, and a Weissenborn Hawaiian – with no human voice to come between them. A few sips of Dawson's musical nectar could become intoxicating.

Year: 
2014