Steve Dawson – At The Bottom of a Canyon In the Branches of a Tree
On first listen to Chicago’s Steve Dawson I felt he provided a pleasant enough voice but doesn’t suggest the gravity of a John Prine, John Hiatt, or character of Townes van Zandt & Guy Clark.
However, by cut 2 “Forgiveness Is Nothing Like I Thought It Would Be,” Dawson spreads a captivating lyrical pattern with a poignant melody. This has meat on it & flavor. I thought there would only be one strong cut but track 3 “The Spaces In Between,” with the light picking of Michael Miles’ banjo creates yet another tight beauty. Dawson seems to have a good hold on songs that don’t showcase bravado as much as an abundance of feeling, meaning, & messages.
I’m not an advocate of falsetto but “22 Rubber Bands,” is a lyrically cute, impressive pop song with good storytelling. The lite arrangement allows the song to breathe & be endearing.
There are 12-tracks + 2 bonus songs on At The Bottom of a Canyon In the Branches of a Tree (Drops July 16–Pravda). Dawson lays out his repertoire inventively with variations, versatile tunes, & though he skims the rim of formula songwriting at times Dawson’s clever. He connects the dots to delicate well-composed material like “She Knew,” – with its gentle dignified lyrics & presence. A good example of fine singing comes on “Hard Time Friend” with Alton Smith (piano). It’s well-articulated, & Dawson adds a rough-hewed voice that remains sensitive & eloquent.
If I had to tag Mr. Dawson I’d say he’s in that steamy singer-songwriter bathhouse with James Taylor, Jackson Browne & Eric Andersen. But he does possess his own well-crafted style & it’s firmly developed (“Hard Time Friend”).
His voice takes impressive shape with the tonality displayed on the subdued dazzle of “Beautiful Mathematics.” The music surrounds atmospherically. “I Will Never Stop Being Sorry,” has a pinch of Tom Waits attitude & the late Dory Previn’s angst. This is strong, exceptional. What makes it even stronger is that Dawson doesn’t sing with a sugar-coated pop voice. The bonus cut “You’re Trying Too Hard,” is equally good.
The LP is filled with gutsiness, beauty & subtlety culminating in a satisfying listen created by an able musician with expressive vocals, lyrics & silky music.
The instrumentation is performed confidently with Steve Dawson (guitars/bass/drums/ keyboards/lap steel/harmonium/dulcimer/accordion), Dolly Varden’s Diane Christiansen (vocals on “We Are Walking In a Forest”).
Color image of Dawson by Matthew Gilson.
The 50-minute CD is available @ Amazon/the Pravda website & https://stevedawsonmusic.com/