From his current home base in Nashville, Canadian musician and producer Steve Dawson continues to create some of the finest roots music on the scene. Solid States & Loose Ends is his latest release on his own Black Hen label, and the beautifully crafted collection of originals and covers may be his best work yet.
Dawson’s assimilation of genres is both wide-ranging and seamless. The country soul of Loose Ends, On Top of the World, Final Words and Rose’s Blues, along with the New Orleans funeral stomp of Leave My Name Behind and the ominous gospel of Early Warning, recalls the artful rich-ness of the Band. This is bolstered by the instrumentation, which variously includes Jim Hoke and Steve Hermann on horns, Kevin McKendree on keys, Fats Kaplin’s mandolin, fiddle and accordion and the backing vocals of Regina and Ann McCrary. Together they achieve a cohesive looseness only capable of master players and singers.
The spirits of Riley Puckett, Blind Willie McTell and Joe Tex also inhabit this album. Riley’s Henhouse Door was the name of Puckett’s version of Who Broke the Lock (on the Henhouse Door)?, and Dawson’s expressive chicken picking on his solo take is delightful. Likewise, Dawson’s slide-seared rendition of Can’t Put that Monkey on My Back shares a jaunty air with Puckett’s. His versions of McTell’s tragic Delia and Tex’s playful You Got What it Takes evoke the originals without copying them. Elsewhere, the understated Broken Future Blues, California Saviour, Little Silver and Driver’s Wheel bring Dawson’s dexterous fretwork and sweet, low tenor to the fore.
True to its name, all of the elements of Steve Dawson’s Solid States & Loose Ends are tied together into a satisfying, exquisite whole.