Steve Dawson: Nightshade

Nightshade

Black Hen 

Every now and then, when not busy producing other artists, Steve Dawson finds time to drop an album of his own material. This one’s number five and if you’ve never heard the man’s work, it’s as good a place to introduce yourself as any.

Dawson deals in a revival style of roots Americana, somewhere between the stripped down r’n’b of Catl and the full-on swamp grooves of Rockit 88. Though a little darker in tone than previous outings, Nightshade doesn’t slip into American Gothic if only on account of the sparkling playing, slick production, Dawson’s tale-spinning skills and a certain West Coast charm.

‘Course, he’s a well lauded string bender and on Nightshade he works out on acoustic, electric, steel, national and Weissenborn guitars, the last named known for their rich bottom end. Along for the ride are Vancouver genre stars Chris Gestrin, Keith Lowe and Geoff Hicks. Singer Jill Barber and backups Jeanne Tolmioe and Alice Dawson bring feminine warmth and fine harmonies to the proceedings 

A good thing as Dawson’s delivery tends to lean heavily on the laidback and languid. This fits most of the material but ‘Torn and Frayed’, a tense tale of a relationship on the point of exploding and the title track, a cowboy movie-type tale of a desperate man on the run, could have used a more intense take.

That aside, the rest adds up to a fine collection of rootsy blues that could garner greater mainstream attention for Dawson.

Lenny Stoute