Steve Dawson & The Telescope 3 – Phantom Threshold
The danger of featuring pedal steel throughout a single CD with no singing is that the intense countrified character could mutate into a Hawaiian-based blend. Nothing wrong with that genre of music but if that’s not what’s intended it becomes an issue. That hasn’t happened here.
The performance is solid in both country flavor & tiptoes around a more progressive-funky conversion. Executed rather well I may add. The all-instrumental 50-minute Phantom Threshold (Drops Aug 12–Black Hen) is the 2nd of 3 LPs that finds guitarist Steve Dawson showcasing some interesting melodies.
People who like to write, or think, close their eyes & drift off into a private world – these instrumental passages will provide a cool imaginative environment. All without a hallucinogenic.
King Crimson instrumentals (“Starless”) are a little more intense, but they used to inspire me heavily especially since they knew how to use their subtle interplay to be stirring, exciting & sensitive. This music by Nashville-based Canadian Steve Dawson takes you from Crimson’s fantasyland to his more rural soundscape as if in an IMAX movie on a glider drifting over the Grand Canyon…alone.
Steve plays pedal steel/acoustic/electric guitars/mandotar/marxophone/ukulele/Mellotron/National steel guitar & Tricone/baritone guitar & prepared Weissenborn).
“The Water’s Rise,” works in quite a special musical mix since it teases with a little Oriental, sad French accordion & whining almost Cajun pedal steel. Lovely stuff – it almost describes a beautiful woman from the 1920s in a satiny gown wearing pearls.
“You Still Believe In Me,” registers as a melody that would fit into a motion picture. It’s inspiring & sticks in my memory. A very Euro-drenched melody that picks petals from Paul Mauriat (“Love Is Blue”) & The Beatles’ melodies that were Gershwin inspired (“Here, There & Everywhere”).
“Lily’s Resistor,” is borderline Tom Waits by way of Brecht-Weill with its dark circus/carnival tempo. The music overall is reminiscent of soundtracks that never were. All this elusive musical integrity was recorded at Steve’s Henhouse Studio in Nashville with an array of vintage tube amps. Mixed at Sam Phillip’s Recording Studio in Memphis. The musicians came via remote performances (due to Covid).
There are moments where the atmosphere, its delicacies & intensities is like The Chantay’s “Pipeline,” from the early 60s. That’s a stretch I know, but my mind recalled that music as I listened to Mr. Dawson’s pieces. I do hear early 70’s Pink Floyd, John Fahey, Leo Kottke & Ry Cooder embellishments. That’s what makes this listen all the more satisfying.
Players include Jay Bellerose (drums/percussion), Jeremy Holmes (bass/upright bass), Chris Gestrin (organ/tape organ/Juno/Mellotron/piano/Wurlitzer/synth/pump organ/clavinet/accordion/electric organ/Hammond organ/melodica/Moog/Farfisa), Daniel Lapp (violins/cornet) & Fats Kaplin (banjo/fiddle/accordion).
Instrumental LPs are a tough sell, but Dawson & crew seem to have added enough personality & character to make it a worthy purchase.
Oh…you’ll like the music too.
Photo credit: Laura E. Partain.
Sample music @ Spotify. The 11-cut CD @ https://www.stevedawson.ca/biography
Enjoy our earlier coverage here: Interview: Steve Dawson and the Catharsis of Songwriting