A Canadian now based in Nashville Steve Dawson is steadily building up a reputation as a go to man for producing and session guitar work, the recent (and excellent) album from Matt Patershuk the latest to benefit from Dawson's skills. Solid States And Loose Ends (which uses many of the band members who appeared on Patershuk's album) is Dawson's follow up to his acclaimed 2014 album Rattlesnake Cage which was essentially a true solo effort featuring just the man and a whole bunch of guitars exploring acoustic guitar blues. That album recalled at times the work of Ry Cooder and it's fair to say that Cooder remains a comparison here although in this case it's his electric slide work that's the case in point. With one exception (the solo guitar and vocal Riley's Henhouse Door) Dawson presents an album soaked in soulful, semi acoustic and bluesy wallows; gutbucket and swampy at times, elsewhere a sepia toned old time swing, with his string driven skills, be it on acoustic or electric, National Steel, pedal steel, slide or Dobro, illuminating the songs like lightning flashes.
With a solid rhythm section in Gary Craig on drums and either John Dymand on electric bass or Mike Bub on stand up bass, Dawson is ably supported by Fats Kaplin who plays fiddle and mandolin with Kevin McKendree on keyboards. The McCrary Sisters add some Gospel harmonies, Keri Latimer sings on several songs and a sweet horn section pops up on occasion. The ensuing music is a joy to listen to, exhilarating at times, the joyous abandon of "Can't Put That Monkey On My Back" perhaps the most exuberant closely followed by the slinky "Broken Future Blues".
The album opens with a sinuous guitar snaking into "Loose Ends", a fatback feast with horns and The McCrary's testifying. "Broken Future Blues" snaps and zings, the acoustic guitars flailing away before "Leave My Name Behind" cakewalks into town, Kaplan's fiddle given a fine outing along with a ferocious guitar solo from Dawson. Again, The McCrary's are on hand, the result recalling Taj Mahal's work with The Pointer Sisters. Dawson's guitar work prowls throughout the album with some wicked slide playing well to the fore on "Early Warning" and "You Got What It Takes" but his acoustic prowess is the driver on "Delia" and "Driver's Wheel". While the album as a whole is blues based he also offers up the excellent "California Stranger", a pedal steel infused plaintive that recalls Alejandro Escovedo.