Saturday, June 4, 2011

NIghtshade reviewed by Steve Jones

Steve Dawson
Black Hen Music
12 tracks

We gave this CD first to one of our reviewers who likes his blues fairly traditional.  He told me this was not blues, why don't you give it a listen and review it?  So I did.  I am still trying to pin a genre on this album.  Despite the fact that it touches on blues, folk, rock, country and such, it is a damn fine album despite the fact that it transcends having a true label in any genre.

Dawson's voice is described by others as "laconic".  His slow, easy style to singing gives me a picture of a warm summer after noon on the front porch, listening to a story telling bard slowly telling us  of his exploits and tales.  His guitar work is done flawlessly.  He is the spider who weaves a beautiful web and ensnares those  get too close.  Lulled by the beauty, they fall prey to the spider whose music puts them in a dream-like state until it is too late.  We've become fans.

The stories he tells are intricate and intriguing.  They have deep dark sides at times while others are lighter and less deep.  Either way, there are 11 original and crafted well tunes and one Mississippi Sheiks cover. Geoff Hicks is on drums, Keith Lowe is on bass, Chris Gestrin fills in on various keyboards, organs, pianos, accordions and whatever is needed with keys throughout.  Dawson's understated vocals can fool you.  At first listen they may seem to be monotone; as one listens they recognize that the style of singing is quite interesting and not monotonous.

From his opening "Torn and Frayed" through the title track and to the ending "The Time It Takes" we are fed a deep and intricate set f tunes delivered with direct and forthright vocals and Dawson showing us he is adept on all the string instruments that can be plucked. Various guitars, banjos, pedal steel and other stringed instruments woo us as we wind through the dozen tracks.  Even "the Sheiks Gulf Coast Bay " has a fresh coat of paint on it; he gave that one to us on the tribute album we reviewed last year.

I'm really happy our fist reviewer gave up the ghost on this one.  It might not be blues and while it might not be classifiable as anything more than great Canadian roots music, it is a super CD!

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