Juno Award-winning guitarist Steve Dawson heads up the Canadian faction of the league of special slide men. Those whose sting and twang mix magnificently with touch. Elmore James had his singular panache. Ry Cooder and Jack Pearson are among the several who mesmerize today. Each springs to mind at times while listening to the Berklee-trained Dawson go to town on Solid States & Loose Ends, his seventh solo set of ruminations, interpretations, and string manipulations.
Clearly, the man’s multifarious guitar chops are in order, but that’s just the tip. Dawson also writes absorbing songs, sings in a gratifying tenor, produces attention-grabbing sound, and owns the studio and the record label. Based now in Nashville, he coupled some of Music City’s finest with a muscular Canadian rhythm section and came up with quite a tasty slate rooted in the blues, but with hues of country, folk, soul, gospel, and the Big Easy layered within. The songs are alive with texture and flavor. Sweet, elusive plucking shakes “Loose Ends” awake. Quickly the band, horns, and McCrary Sisters singers all fall into place, making a sizzling noise of an obsessive compulsive’s anthem—kinda like grill-fired prime Little Feat slathered in Memphis grease.
“Broken Future Blues,” with forceful, swampy underpinnings, hints at the people killin’ the dream. National steel, and especially pedal steel, evoke a warm and gentle breeze wafting through the folk vibe of “California Saviour” before slightly bawdy, old time country blues kicks in for the happy-go-lucky “On Top of the World.” Dawson spotlights country music pioneer Riley Puckett twice. A brisk solo rendition of the Skillet Lickers’ “Riley’s Henhouse Door” displays masterful acoustic slide, and “Can’t Put that Monkey on My Back,” some serious ripping with the band. The depth of talent is almost exceeded by the breadth of the material and performances on display. Almost. Loose ends tied into solid states, indeed. Steve Dawson should be a household name among roots music fans.