Lucky Hand (Black Hen Music) is guitarist extraordinaire Steve Dawson’s eighth solo album, and his first all-instrumental release since 2014’s Rattlesnake Cage. Dawson is the artist behind the scenes much of the time, producing and performing on releases from artists like Jim Byrnes, Kelly Joe Phelps, John Hammond, and Big Dave McLean. While his contributions add much luster to those works, it’s when he works on his own recordings where Dawson really shines. These ten compositions, all penned by Dawson, feature the guitarist in solo and duo format, along with backing from a string quartet with arrangements from longtime collaborator Jesse Zubot.
The album is a diverse mix of blues, country, folk, and jazz…..Dawson can play them all. The idyllic opener, “The Circuit Rider of Pigeon Forge,” is the first of five tracks that team Dawson with the string quartet and the interplay between them is marvelous. “Bentonia Blues” is, as the title indicates, a gentle, meditative blues pairing Dawson’s National Steel Guitar with the legendary Charlie McCoy’s harmonica, and the lively “Bone Cave” reunites Dawson with the quartet, while the solo “Hale Road Revelation” gives the guitarist ample opportunity to showcase his nimble fingerpicking.
The rousing “Old Hickory Breakdown” finds Dawson and the quartet going back and forth at breakneck speed with satisfying results, and mandolinist John Reischman joins Dawson on the lovely “Little Harpeth.” The title track is next, with the quartet providing quiet, but effective support behind Dawson’s deft fingerpicking. The fast-paced “Hollow Tree Gap” is a toe-tapper that ventures into bluegrass territory, and “Lonesome Ace” has a countrified feel reminiscent of Doc Watson. The closer, “Bugscuffle,” features Dawson on the Weissenborn lap guitar.
Lucky Hand is a wide-ranging, far-reaching collection of masterful guitar. Steve Dawson never fails to disappoint whenever he straps one on and this disc is no exception. Guitar players or anyone who enjoys guitar played well will love this set. – Graham Clarke