Steve Dawson & The Telescope 3 – Phantom Threshold
Black Hen Music
Steve Dawson is a prominent musician in the Canadian blues music scene and has appeared on over 200 albums in this century alone. He is a native of Vancouver and currently resides in Nashville, producing, playing and recording. He’s won 7 Juno Awards and has received several other accolades for his outstanding production work. He’s also received many other awards including Maple Blues Awards, Grand Prix De Jazz De Montreal, and Blues Blast Awards. His website shows 48 of the albums he’s appeared on and I have listened to and/or reviewed at least two dozen of them and I’ve enjoyed them all.
This album is the second part of a trio of albums Dawson is releasing this year. The first was Gone Long Gone, a roots, folk and blues album of songs and instrumentals. This one is entirely instrumental with a focus on pedal steel guitar and hearken back to Telescope, a similarly themed album from 2008. The promo material states that this is intended to be listened to in it’s entirety, the tunes setting up a mood and flow for the listener to enjoy. It’s quite the theme album, and I agree it’s something that is best enjoyed in it’s entirety.
Dawson handles the pedal steel, other stringed instruments, sax, and mellotron. Jay Bellerose plays drums, on bass is Jeremy Holmes, Chris Gestrim handles most things with keys and Fats Kaplan adds his banjo, accordion and fiddle on a couple of tracks. Daniel Lapp plays violins on a track and cornet on another.
The album begins with “Cozy Corner,” a somber piece that at time reminded me of Pink Floyd. Interesting stuff. A solo pedal steel follows, “Burnt End.” Another coo; cut; short, not overdone, expressive. “Twig Bucket” follows, a slow blues with layers of guitar and pedal steel that overlap beautifully. Next is the title “Ol’ Brushy,” with a funky groove and filled with soulful organ and guitar. The pedal steel emerges to build the song powerfully before it winds to completion.
The title track follows that, and to me I got a cool vibe with lot of the sounds from a western movie theme. The fiddle coming in to play off the pedal steel was a nice effect; cool cut! “The Waters Rise” is next, stripped down in sound with pedal steel, national tricone and accordion. Very country, somewhat ethereal, the song flows nicely, as a stream meandering through a forest. Dawson plays expressively here. “You Still Believe In Me” is filled with all sorts of cool keyboard sounds playing off the pedal steel. It winds along slowly for the most part, with more vibrant parts interspersed that pick up the beat and showcase the keys. Next is “Tripledream,” with more keyboard work layered in with many guitars. The sound transitions into a honkytonk sound with the cornet in the lead before winding off to it’s conclusion.
“Lily’s Resistor” again mixes cool guitar and keyboard work. “That’s How It Goes In The Relax Lounge” is a flowing cut with nice percussion work including the brushes on the snare giving the song a slick groove to follow. Guitar layers abound again, and the keyboards fill in around them sweetly. The album concludes with “Whirlwind,” a solo piece with Dawson on a prepared weissenborn (paper apparently taped across the strings); the sound here is like the sitar meets acoustic guitar as Dawson lays out some pretty licks.
It’s kind of psychedelic, new age, blues, jazz, and rock blended into a pedal steel country album. Dawson is apparently enjoying living in Nashville and is producing some unique and creative music. I enjoyed the album; as the artist recommends, sit down and just listen; it’s a great ride!