Album Review

Steve Dawson - Gone, Long Gone

The delightful Gone, Long Gone should finally put Dawson on the popular radar, establishing him as the major talent he is. But if not, he will keep plugging away, juggling a variety of hats and contributing to music with his subtle, understated touch.

Steve Dawson - Gone, Long Gone

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Steve Dawson’s deft guitar prowess (a 2018 release featured his intricate, unplugged, six-string instrumentals in the style of Leo Kottke) landed him a steady gig supporting Birds of Chicago with whom he performed over 250 pre-pandemic dates. While that may not have boosted his name recognition, it fostered a relationship with that band’s singer Allison Russell. She returns the favor by appearing on this, Dawson’s ninth album and his first song/vocal/band-oriented set since 2016’s Solid States and Loose Ends.

It’s a typically rootsy collection displaying both Dawson’s swampy compositions, like the moody ‘Skeletons in a Car’, and his stunning finger picking on instrumentals ‘Cicada Sanctuary’ and Hawaiian influenced ‘Kulaniapia Waltz’. The nine co-penned tunes are joined by one cover; a charming version of the Faces’ touching ‘Ooh La La’, enriched by vocals from both Russell and Dawson’s daughter Casey.

It’s a logical choice, since Dawson’s relaxed voice isn’t far from that of Ronnie Lane’s (who sang and co-wrote the original), while its melodic rustic folk/blues and ruminating lyrics are a perfect fit for this album’s comparable approach.

There’s a dusky undercurrent, enlivened by sparkling, beautifully arranged musicianship on selections such as ‘Bad Omen’, where organist Kevin McKendree solos as does Dawson on his Weissenborn guitar. Dawson balances softer edged ballads like ‘Gone, Long Gone’ with thumping, gospel-enhanced swamp blues, as heard on ‘Skeletons…’; guitar leaping out of the mix with a tough, tight solo before scurrying back to the song’s boundaries.

For ‘Just Got Lost’, Dawson adds various keyboards (Mellotron, Farfisa, pump organ) to his six-string abilities as he sings of a difficult relationship; “Sometimes I choose my own way down / Other times you pull me back / And I just get lost”. His stinging slide is a tasty combination of Ry Cooder and Lowell George’s styles. The opening ‘Dimes’ adds a three-piece horn section to augment its soulful New Orleans vibe deepened by Russell’s gospel input.

But Dawson’s skills as a producer/recorder/mixer at his own Nashville based The Henhouse Studio are crucial to this and his other albums’ success. He often downplays his own impressive playing in deference to the song’s needs, never showboating his considerable guitar proficiency by tastefully inserting his lines into the verses as on the closing ‘Time Has Made a Fool Out of Me.’ The audio is crisp and resonant throughout as vocals and instruments envelope the sound yet never overwhelm it.

The delightful Gone, Long Gone should finally put Dawson on the popular radar, establishing him as the major talent he is. But if not, he will keep plugging away, juggling a variety of hats and contributing to music with his subtle, understated touch.

8/10

Gone, Long Gone is out now via Black Hen Music. You can purchase the record from Holler's selected partners below:

Steve Dawson - Gone, Long Gone

Black Hen | 2022

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