Nashville-based Canadian guitarist Steve Dawson has an impressive bag of tricks – Ry Cooder-esque slide, a voice that recalls Jackson Browne and songs that show off dobro and resonator guitars, electric and acoustic but never feel like placeholder-songs to showcase his formidable technique. Opener, Loose Ends, features a stonking horn section, country-blues grooves and R’n’B backing vocalists – it’s as if Robbie Robertson suddenly warmed right up, opened up. In fact it’s the sound of Robertson’s great Storyville album if Cooder and Kottke had added their guitars and production thoughts.
Broken Future Blues has the core band – bass, drums, guitar – laying down the groove for Dawson’s nimble-fingers to dance across. Leave My Name Behind showcases some beautiful National steel playing as the rhythm section takes this to the places where Tami Neilson and Delaney Davidson’s music meets – almost – with Tom Waits’. Fats Kaplan’s viola sings its own song underneath all the while.
This sound is further explored across On Top of The World, Mike Bub’s upright bass warmly plodding and plonking in and around Dawson’s guitar and voice with Kaplan’s fiddle emerging to dance. The slide playing is set to subtle slow-burn here.
Little Silver is Dawson – guitar and voice – set to a soft train shuffle on the drums. It’s modern folk blues.
It’s just guitar and vocals for a fun take on the traditional blues Riley’s Henhouse Door, walking blues bass-line on the acoustic guitar – and it’s like Stefan Grossman and Paul Ubana Jones combined.
Joe Tex’s You Got What It Takes returns us to the swagger of the horns and slide guitar and the loping country-blues gait. Driver’s Wheel has Dawson showing off the Weissenborn lap slide in a duet with Kaplan’s fiddle.
There’s some super great playing on every track – 10 originals, four covers. And Dawson’s grasp of so many song styles and playing techniques is always impressive without ever taking over; these still feel like campfire songs for the most part. They’ll warm your spirit. And make you feel good in your soul.