Canadian bluesman Steve Dawson has been the driving force behind the recent tributes to the Mississippi Sheiks, as well as having produced releases from The Sojourners and Jim Byrnes, just to name a few. He has somehow found the time to release his latest solo effort, "Nightshade," and it represents a significant step forward in his career. It consists of eleven originals and one cover, and listeners familiar with Steve's work will find this one an exercise in his darker side. With tremendous chops on all things stringed, Steve gives his guitar free rein to explore his quite diversified musical interests. From gutbucket blues to free-form instrumentals, Steve catapults the listener thru a maze of brooding, deep characters that will stick with you long after you listen. There are riveting and challenging lyrics, too. Check out the title cut, with its references to "a record by the bed with Pretty Polly on one side and O Death on the other." It features some killer slide work and also great organ from Chris Gestrin. Some sweet pedal steel from Steve drives "We Still Won The War," and a slashing guitar fuels the tale of lovers who realize that their fate is to be served "in the middle of The Fray."
We had two favorites, too. Steve's banjo work leads the way in his tribute to Skip James, "The Side Of The Road." And, perhaps the most light-hearted cut on the set is a cover of the Sheiks' "Gulf Coast Bay," with its deep slide runs and rhumba-fied backbeat.
Steve Dawson has crafted a highly-entertaining ser with "Nightshade," and it will certainly appeal to blues connoisseurs who are into deep, thinking-man's lyrics, excellent musicianship, and uncanny storytelling!!!
Until next time.....Sheryl and Don Crow.