There is something to be said for a musician in the studio with just his guitar and a microphone. Steve Dawson is one of the better acoustic guitarists on the music scene today and that was his simple but effective approach on his new album, Rattlesnake Cage.
Whether it be a traditional six string or 12-string guitar, a national tricone, or a Weissenborn guitar; he is a master of his craft. Each note is clear and well-defined yet they flow smoothly from one to the next creating elegant melodies.
It is both a subtle and intricate album. The music lulls the listener as it slips into the background, which is due to Dawson making it look and feel so easy. Yet it is difficult for a single musician to carry an entire album and keep the listener engaged throughout.
His approach is primitive as he uses a blues foundation to craft his songs. At times he moves toward a folk and jazz format as he fuses elements of different traditions into a creative mix.
The opening track, “Blind Thomas at the Crime Scene,” sets the tone for what will follow. It is a tribute to the simplistic style of John Fahey, Leo Kottke, and the like. Other outstanding tracks that continue this approach are “Lighthouse Avenue,” “The Flagpole Skater Laughs From Above,” “The Altar At Center Raven,” and “The Medicine Show Comes To Avalon.” All are performances create pictures and stories without the use of words.
Rattlesnake Cage is not an album that will overwhelm you but rather it is a guitar maestro at work. If you are even remotely a fan of the guitar, then this is a release for you.