Guitarist Steve Dawson has been called an effortless player.
The voice off his strings is so distinctive, he is able to wow audiences with both his live and recorded music.
“I’m trying to make music people can relate to, something stripped down and imperfect,” he says.
Dawson won his first Juno as a member of the duo Zubot and Dawson, and he continued to make his mark on the B.C. roots scene as a talented solo artist, award-winning producer, sideman and record label owner.
This month he’ll be performing in Chilliwack on March 31 at Bozzini’s, backed by bass player Keith Lowe. There were only a few tickets left at press time.
Dawson filled the Progress in on what he’s been up to since moving to Nashville. The answer is that he’s continuing to do what he does best, create and record honest music.
“I wanted a change of scenery,” he says about the move to Nashville. “I’m hoping that people will come down here and work in my studio, called the Hen House.”
Dawson has always been rather partial to the raw and unadorned sound.
That’s how he recorded his latest album, Rattlesnake Cage. He kept it real simple — with one vintage microphone in front of him and his many guitars.
The name of the album was based on something he read in a John Steinbeck book, Cannery Row.
“The way the album came together was kind of an organic process,” Dawson says in a phone interview.”
He didn’t tell anyone about it. He just quietly laid down the tracks in Vancouver, before moving to Nashville.
“The original concept I had was that I would sit down one day a month for a year. Over that year I would try to write 12 songs, and by the end of it I’d have an overview of a year.”
But things accelerated quite a bit once he got into it.
“I got the fever — a guitar fever I guess. I just didn’t stop. It took me about 10 days. I was writing at same time as recording.”
It’s his fifth solo album, but the first one he ever recorded without anyone else’s instrumental or vocal contributions.
The mood harkens back to the ‘American Primitive’ sound that John Fahey and others recorded on the iconic Takoma record label in the 1960s. It was instrumental music informed by the American roots traditions of blues, ragtime, jazz and even Hawaiian music, but taking those influences in unexpected directions.
“I wanted it to sound like you were right in front of me as I was playing guitar,” he says.
“Today everything is over-emphasized. The idea is to make it sound like you’re sticking your head right inside the guitar which gives a larger than life sound. | was trying to get away from all that. I was after a simpler, welcoming sound rather than an aggressive one.”
Steve Dawson, March 31, Bozzini’s. Doors at 6, show at 8.