Steve Dawson, whose amazing acoustic guitar picking on Rattlesnake Cage grabbed attention in 2014, has proven once again he is a great and versatile artist by moving in a completely different direction with a blues-based masterpiece, Solid States & Loose Ends.
Canadian roots master Dawson, who relocated a few years ago to Nashville, is more than just a gifted musician. He won two Juno Awards (Canada’s music awards) for his own artistic work, and his production work has been associated with five more. His Black Hen music label, according to its website, is “dedicated to producing music that is diverse, eclectic and primarily acoustic-based.” The label’s stable of artists includes Kelly Joe Phelps, Jim Byrnes, Old Man Luedecke, the Sojourners, and the Mississippi Sheiks Tribute Project (featuring the work of Phelps, Byrnes, Bruce Cockburn, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, the North Mississippi Allstars, John Hammond and Bill Frisell). Dawson also started a fledgling podcast that should be a destination for Twangvillians, which you can check out at http://www.stevedawson.ca/makersandshakers/.
Dawson’s own career featured a period in the late 1990s and early 2000s in which he principally collaborated with violin and mandolin player Jesse Zubot. Dawson’s own first album in 2001, Bug Parade, showcased his creative guitar playing with the help of a band. So did his next four offerings, including Telescope in 2008 and Nightshade in 2011, which sometimes gravitated to soft country-rock, blues or jazz. Rattlesnake Cage, Dawson’s first all-instrumental solo guitar effort, was reminiscent of John Fahey’s masterful recordings on Takoma Records in the 1960s and 70s and those of Fahey proteges Leo Kottke and Peter Lang.
Solid States & Loose Ends is a more traditional blues-Americana album, but it is also great. Dawson proves again he can really play. From the first notes on “Loose Ends” through “Broken Future Blues,” the ballad “California Saviour,” the slick picking on “Little Silver,” the haunting “Final Words,” to the closer, “Rose’s Blues,” every song on this album is a great song. All songs, except the traditional “Riley’s Henhouse Door,” “Can’t Put That Monkey on My Back” and “Delia” were written by Dawson. Dawson was joined on the album by a veteran lineup including Gary Craig on drums, John Dymond on bass, as well as Kevin McKendree on keyboards, Fats Kaplin on various strings, Jim Hoke on sax, Steve Herrman on trump, Mike Bub on upright bass, and Keri Latimer and Regina and Ann McCrary on backup vocals.