Steve Dawson already showed up for a Sunday morning coffee, and I gave you some broad strokes about his upcoming release, Waiting for the Lights to Come Up. Dawson's solo work has always been received well by critics, but with the addition of a stellar band and a desire to write songs for them, Dawson might finally get some exposure.
It's hard to try to classify this release. He jumps around from influence to influence, but shows an amazing ability to keep the record together. The album jumps out of the starting blocks with At Arms at Length. Dawson's guitar work shimmers, but it’s the way he passes the spotlight to the band that helps this songs click. The keyboard and female harmonies dominate the first minute of the song, before relenting to the brushed drums and finger work.
It seems like simple recipe, but the way he builds a foundation for the song before exploding into brief, electric solos keeps the song constantly evolving. He's able to introduce several guitar parts, but the track never stumbles. A few well placed notes here and there, before quickly returning to the back and letting the keyboards take over again.
Dawson grew up listening to jazz, roots, rock and soul and remarkably, he's able to play flawless guitar parts in each style. His guitar work is akin to a someone with an amazing vocabulary. He doesn't use big words to try to show what he knows, preferring to use the correct words needed to say what needs to be said in just the right way. Dry as our Luck showcases his skills on the lap steel, but he adds a surprising amount of melody to the song. The notes dance around the track, but again the female vocals, drums and keyboards keep the meandering notes from wandering too far.
The record touches on inspirational, gospel soul (Walking Down the Line), blues (Today's Surprise) and roots, but it's the interesting instrumentation (Hard to Get Gertie is an amazing combination of big band and more traditional beach music and Swinging in my Hammock is a terrific guitar/accordion laced lullabye) that allows Dawson to jump genres, sometimes even in the same songs.
Despite all the talent and instrumentation, the arrangements never seem crowded. Room to Room is a beautiful track, but it's built with simple building blocks. The guitar is a gentle picked line, that dances behind the keyboard and drums but it’s the way they sound together that is so impressive.