Friday, May 20, 2011

Steve Dawson "Nightshade"

Steve Dawson has made himself a national treasure in his native Canada, and his singing, guitar playing and song writing are all top-notch. In addition to his own work, the five time Juno award winner has produced albums by other luminaries, including Jim Byrnes, Kelly Joe Phelps, Old Man Luedecke, The Sojourners, and The Deep Dark Woods, as well as bringing the award winning Mississippi Sheiks Tribute Project to fruition. Dawson should be much better known than he is in the US--he reminds me of Ry Cooder, and this record reminds me of Cooder's "Into The Purple Valley, " both in the subject matter of the songs and the virtuosity of the playing.

"Nightshade" is Dawson's fifth solo release. All the songs are Dawson originals, except "Gulf Coast Bay," written by Walter Vinson. As always, Dawson's guitar work centers each song. The instrumental work on “Nightshade” is certainly the most nuanced and gut wrenching of his career to date. From the weissenborn that drives “Fairweather Friends” to the pedal steel that defines “We Still Won the War” or the 12-string slide guitar on “Darker Still”, “Nightshade” like all of Dawson’s recordings offers a veritable musical feast for string aficionados. Banjos dance through “Side of the Road” (a song that was inspired by the life of bluesman Skip James), and snatches of acoustic melodies can be heard from time to time, but given the serious tone of many of the songs, Dawson wisely opted for a harder more electric sound this time out. And Dawson is backed by some of the best players in the business. Frequent collaborators Chris Gestrin (keys) Keith Lowe (bass) and Geoff Hicks (drums) lock in from the first note to sympathetically complement the twists and turns posed by this challenging music. Acclaimed singers Jill Barber, Jeanne Tolmie and Alice Dawson each add great backing vocals.

This is the best Dawson release so far. I look forward to the next one. Steve Dawson is building greater stature with each cd. You can buy this cd at http://www.

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