Steve Dawson continues to amaze and impress with each release. The Canadian-born guitarist moved to Nashville several years ago, and while his guitar work is as impressive as it ever was he continues to grow by leaps and bounds as a composer and singer. Dawson’s seventh solo release, Solid States and Loose Ends (Black Hen Music) is a heady mix of blues, Americana, gospel, folk, and soul, consisting of 14 outstanding tracks, ten penned by Dawson and four covers.
Dawson’s previous release, Rattlesnake Cage, was a solo acoustic instrumental album. With the new release, Dawson surrounds himself with a potent band: Gary Craig (drums), John Dymond (bass), plus a fine set of Nashville’s finest musicians, including Kevin McKendree (keyboards), Fats Kaplin (viola, fiddle, mandolin, accordion), Jim Hoke (saxophones), and Steve Herrman (trumpet), Mike Bub (upright bass), plus heavenly backing vocals from the McCrary Sisters and Keri Latimer.
The album opens on a high note with the swampy “Loose Ends,” which features Dawson playing some pretty tasty slide, and sweet backing vocals from the McCrarys, too, before segueing into the upbeat acoustic “Broken Furniture Blues,” which Dawson punctuates with some excellent slide. Next up is “Leave My Name Behind,” a pre-war-styled gospel-fueled number with Dawson strutting his stuff on National Steel, Kaplin on viola, and the McCrarys doing their thing. For the standout “California Savior,” Dawson plays National Steel, pedal steel, and pump organ.
The gentle “On Top Of The World” is a delightful country-flavored swinger, and “Little Silver” continues the country vein with an up-tempo guitar rhythm and pedal steel from Dawson. The rousing “Driver’s Wheel” follows suit with Kaplin on fiddle and backing vocals from Latimer. “Final Words” is an enticing mix of soul and blues that addresses loneliness, and features an appropriately soulful vocal from Dawson. “Early Warning” is a sparse number focusing on Dawson’s acoustic guitar and mandolin, the McCrary’s backing vocals, and churchy keyboards from McKendree, and the shimmering ballad “Rose’s Blues” closes the disc.
Dawson also re-imagines four classic tunes that cover a lot of musical ground, from a fun reading of Gid Tanner & the Skillet Lickers’ “Henhouse Door,” to Riley Puckett’s “Can’t Put That Monkey On My Back,” highlighted by some otherworldly slide work, Joe Tex’s “You Got What It Takes,” transformed into a sharp urban blues track, and the traditional “Delia,” done country blues style.
Any of Steve Dawson’s albums are worth a listen, but Solid States and Loose Ends stands out in his catalog, with some of his most compelling songwriting and guitar work yet.