Steve Dawson has won seven Juno awards (the Canadian equivalent of the Grammys) as both an artist and producer, and it has been our pleasure to review his projects with The Sojourners, Jim Byrnes, and a tribute to the Mississippi Sheiks, among others. A lifelong student of the guitar, his latest release finds him playing in a solo acoustic setting, with just his guitar being played thru a single vintage microphone. The results are astounding, to which the eleven originals of “Rattlesnake Cage” will attest. Steve’s picking on these cuts is exemplary, and reminiscent of the Sixties works of John Fahey and Ry Cooder, and also shows what a tremendous talent Steve has for the old-time feel of these tunes.
Throughout the set, he uses several different guitars, including both six-and twelve-string acoustics, a National Tricone, and even a Weissenborn Hawaiian guitar to convey these musical messages. He has studied the great Delta masters all through his career, and, as one listens to these instrumentals, you can pick up his subtle nods to their influences. “Chunky,” for example, creates a dark, brooding undertone of slide notes, almost giving the feeling that one is nearing those mythical “crossroads.” “The Medicine Show Comes To Avalon” is a sprightly, light-hearted tribute to Mississippi John Hurt, while “The Altar At Center Raven” recalls the fire of Rev. Gary Davis.
“Rattlesnake Cage” finds Steve Dawson effectively bringing to life an era in American musical culture when less was indeed more. His contemporary guitar techniques combined with his extensive knowledge of the Delta bluesmen makes this collection a must for blues fans everywhere!