The standout acoustic blues disc of the year, Rattlesnake Cage (Black Hen), showcases Steve Dawson's brilliance. He wrote all of the songs, produced and mixed the disc, and plays gloriously on this all-instrumental collection. Dawson employs a number of guitars: a Jumbo Larrivee, a Weissenborn built by Michael Dunn, a National Tricone and a Taylor 12-string. He also notes that he used a Neumann M 49 microphone "that had been hanging from the rafters of a church in Detroit for 50 years."

All of the above are expertly utilized on these 11 impressive songs. From the opening notes on "Blind Thomas at the Crime Scene," Dawson displays his complete control of the instrument. His playing is bright and jaw-droppingly precise.

"Flophouse Oratory" is played with more power, and the following "The Medicine Show Comes to Avalon" returns to beautifully played finger picking. As you might expect, this is reminiscent of Mississippi John Hurt.

"Butterfly Stunt" is fleet fingered and "While The West Was Won the Earth Didn't Know It"  has a deep and buttery feel to it.

Fans of amazing guitar playing don't want to let this one pass. To my ears, the most impressive acoustic guitarist to come down the pike in years. Fans of Dan Crary will love this. Whew!      - Mark E. Gallo