Canadian guitarist Steve Dawson, who now resides in Nashville, has produced albums for the likes of Kelly Joe Phelps, and his own playing variously alludes to that of John Fahey, Mississippi John Hurt, Chet Atkins and others.
Lucky Hand, his eighth album, is entirely instrumental and Dawson’s playing, whether on acoustic, twelve-string, steel-bodied guitar or Weissenborn, is virtuosic. But fundamental to the excellence of the album are the arrangements on several tracks by violinist Jesse Zubot. Rather than simply creating a sympathetic backdrop for Dawson’s guitar, Zubot has composed captivating soundscapes that are unorthodox and inventive - indeed almost avante-garde.
These arrangements are played by a string quartet, which includes highly-rated jazz cellist Peggy Lee, French horn, trombone, and clarinet and on tracks like ‘Lonesome Ace’, the intertwining of the guitar with the various accompanying instruments is spellbinding. Listening to the ambition of these arrangements, the citing of Van Dyke Parks as an inspiration makes perfect sense.
Of the other tracks, ‘Hale Road Revelations’ features fiendishly fast and accurate fingerpicking and ‘Little Harpeth’ and ‘Bentonia Blues’ are atmospheric duets with mandolin player John Reischman and harmonica player Charlie McCoy respectively.