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Steve Dawson - Nightshade

Black Hen Music


Canadian Steve Dawson has so many slide guitars and other stringed instruments floating through this release in such an appealing fashion that on paper one would think this would be a blues record. When in fact it is the effort of gifted singer-songwriter who supplies the guitar skills of a master. The only blues song herewith is the only non-original. In possession of a pleasing voice and the ability to provide adequate lyrics, this recording should have appeal to the discerning listener. This music fits in perfectly alongside many of today's crop of singer-songwriter fare that crops up on “hip” radio. A crack band follows Steve around every bend. Keyboard wizard Chris Gestrin adds coloration throughout on a wide assortment of instruments, fleshing out the sonics. The music isn’t merely backing for the songs, but are complete musical entities unto themselves. Steve’s guitar styling’s can go from intricate finger-picking to jagged electric slide guitar all within the course of a single tune.

The nightshade referred to in the title track isn’t a reference to the fruit category, but rather some sinister force. The atmosphere is reinforced by distorted slide work. A sense of melancholia is conquered up in the acoustic twelve string slide driven “Darker Still”. “Walk On” is given much the same jaunty groove as Jim Byrnes gave it on his latest release. This toe-tapper falls into John Hiatt-J.J. Cale territory. A Rolling Stones slow-drag groove ala “No Expectations” is given to “Have That Chance”, a song that would be well-suited to the mighty Mick’s drawl. The influence of Tom Waits, in mood and quirky juxtaposition of banjo and organs, is seen in “The Side Of The Road”. Dawson draws on many types of music without copying or being obvious. The smooth sheen of pedal steel melds effortlessly with Wurlitzer on the tale of persistence that is “We Still Won The War”. Country-blues slide on the weissenborn briskly powers “Fairweather Friends”.

This record has appeal on many levels. Aficionados of glorious slide guitar will have a field-day here. Devotees of the singer-songwriter genre will find much to like here. And the general music fan can find enjoyment here while discovering subtle classic-rock influences scattered along the way. Rarely does a tunesmith provide such gifted instrumental support to his own compositions. What we see here is a music-sponge who squeezes out something wholly different.

Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta. He is the proprietor of Bluesdog’s Doghouse at

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