Steve Dawson: Rattlesnake Cage

steve dawson
Steve Dawson
Rattlesnake Cage
(Black Hen Music)
3.5 out of 5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

One man, one microphone, one acoustic guitar. . . pure magic. It doesn’t take much when you have Canadian producer/singer/songwriter Steve Dawson’s talent to wring folk, blues, country and gospel out of his instrument. Best known to those north of the border as a producer, solo artist and label owner of Black Hen Music, Dawson recently relocated to Nashville. This recording might not be typical of his more song-oriented output, but it’s a wonderful side road.

Leo Kottke fans will immediately recognize the legendary acoustic guitarist’s influence on Dawson. The circular riffs enhanced by complex solo lines that go down easy. This isn’t background music though, as Dawson wraps his fingers around various tempo and mood changes in unusually titled songs such as “The Flagpole Skater Laughs from Above” and Butterfly Stunt,” the latter played on a National Tricone guitar (sounds like a less metallic National Steel).

Like Kottke, John Fahey or Richard Thompson, it seems impossible for two hands to create this much sound. But amazingly, there are no overdubs or editing to create that illusion. The jaunty ragtime tempo of “J.R. Lockely’s Dilemma” is reminiscent of early Ry Cooder, as is much of this, especially when Dawson picks up his slide.

The 40 minute, 11 track album’s relative brevity ensures that it doesn’t get repetitious, and actually seems to end too soon. There aren’t many musicians brave or gifted enough to pull off a purely solo performance like this, which makes its appearance even more noteworthy. Anyone looking for more of what Leo Kottke offered back in his mid-70s instrumental prime, need wait no longer. Steve Dawson’s fleet fingers, dexterity and sheer musicality make this a must for acoustic guitar aficionados and a treat for everyone else.

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