Steve Dawson – Rattlesnake Cage

(Black Hen)

STEVE DAWSON plays Hugh’s Room May 1. See listing. Rating: NNN

It doesn’t get much more solo than this: a man in a room with an old microphone (he I.D.s it, even: a Neumann M49) and four of his favourite guitars. Vancouver-bred Steve Dawson – now a Nashville-based guitarist, songwriter and producer – revels in that simplicity on his latest, an instrumental guitar album showcasing his various styles of fingerpicking and slide work without overdubs or effects (technically impressive considering the shower of notes on opener Blind Thomas At The Crime Scene, for instance).

The result is tunes that are pleasant more often than arresting, tailor-made for playing quietly in the kitchen.

That said, things get interesting when Dawson’s guitar rises from a hum and starts to sing. The Medicine Show Comes To Avalon is such a loving, close riff on Mississippi John Hurt that I initially mistook it for a cover meanwhile, The Flagpole Skater Laughs From Above is light and airy and quieter Lighthouse Avenue moves at the pace of a pensive late-night walk.

Top track: The Medicine Show Comes To Avalon

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