Steve Dawson has served as producer and go-to guitar player for country blues- man Byrnes before. He had much to do with making Byrnes’ 2009 Walking Stick so good, and this equally fine followup shows there ain’t nothing broke yet.
Byrnes himself is a fine guitarist but he passes the pick to Dawson, and the combination of voice, guitar, and mate- rial shows the two to be in perfect synch. Dawson gets it in gear right off the bat with the album’s opening notes coming from his brash electric slide guitar intro to Byrnes’ fresh but respectful version of Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On.” From the very first, Dawson’s guitar establishes a sense of steady energy that never lags, even through the ballads.
Several of the songs here are classics recorded many times by many different artists. Teamed with Dawson and a great band featuring standout standup bass from Rob Becker, Byrnes puts a claim on each one. He reworks Dolly Parton’s “The Bargain Store” into a piece of high-stepping electric country. Dawson’s baritone guitar gives the cut a “Ghost Riders In The Sky” vibe and his sinuous pedal steel enhances its spectral tone.
Byrnes also scores with Marty Rob- bins’ “Big Iron” and Gordon Lightfoot’s “Ribbon Of Darkness” (also a hit for Robbins) when his arresting, understated vocals are again paired with brilliant pedal steel from Dawson.
Dawson has a nice solo catalog, and Byrnes knows how to make a record that has some heft to it no matter who else is on board. Together, they make one of the best pairings since bacon met eggs. – RA