Big Dave McLean has been a fixture on the Winnipeg, Canada, scene for decades, winning Juno and Western Canadian Music Awards along the way. He recently ventured down to the friendly confines of our own Music City to team up with producer/guitarist Steve Dawson to release “Faded But Not Gone,” twelve traditional-sounding tracks that combine Dave’s originals with choice covers from the likes of Tampa Red, Tom Waits, and Skip James.
Joining Dave, who is on vocals, harp, and guitar throughout, is Steve Dawson on guitar, Kevin McKendree on keys, John Dymond on bass, and Gary Craig on drums. These musicians are well-versed in this traditional, Delta-meets-contemporary sound, and all of Dave’s originals are conceived and written within that same style.
Check out his autobiography, where we learn his “father was a minister in the Presbyterian church,” and his “mother was a pianist.” But, for Dave, it was a case of“I Best Choose To Pick The Blues.” And, when “all your good luck ain’t gone but it’s leavin,” then “Don’t Get Mad, Get Even!” Kevin McKendree gets in some fine acoustic piano on this one, too. “One More Day” follows a second-line rhythm pattern, while Steve Dawson adds banjo on Dave’s cover of Tom Waits’ curious tale of “Mexican whorehouses and a Catholic church,” “Mr. Siegal.”
There are some somber moments, too. “The Fallen” is a tribute to his late brother who passed a week before this song was recorded, and “Shades Of Grace,” dedicated to his late mother who sang “Amazing Grace” to him as a child, also features backing vocals from Ann and Regina McCrary.
We had two favorites, too. Another member of the “Nashville Connection” present on this album is Colin Linden, who adds some mighty fine eight-stringin’ on Dave’s cover of the humorous “Dead Cat On The Line.” And, the set begins with Dave’s clever use of “Leaning On The Everlasting Arms” as an intro to “Tough Times,” a song as meaningful in today’s world as when it was written.
Big Dave McLean set out initially to make a great record, and, coupled with his own immense talents as well as those of his sidemen, “Faded But Not Gone” has accomplished this goal! Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.