Photo by Alice Dawson
Before moving to Nashville almost three years ago, guitarist Steve Dawson had already made a name for himself in Canada, winning numerous Juno awards as an artist and a producer. A fabulous fingerpicker and slide player who excels on pretty much any style of guitar—acoustic, electric, lap and pedal steel, resonator, Hawaiian—the Vancouver native has earned comparisons to T Bone Burnett and Ry Cooder.
Dawson, whose full interview with Premier Guitar will appear online in April, is a gifted singer and songwriter, too. His latest album, Solid States and Loose Ends, set for release April 1, is an intriguing amalgam of blues, folk, soul, and gospel that will further establish him as a rising force on the roots music scene.
The song we’re premiering here, “Driver’s Wheel,” is a haunting piece of swampy blues that would make the perfect accompaniment for a scene from the HBO show True Detective. In fact, a lot of Dawson’s music has a cinematic quality that would be perfect for film and television soundtracks. On the album, the track features a full band, but in this video, shot in his Nashville studio, Dawson gives the number the solo treatment on his Celtic Cross Weissenborn guitar.
It’s a moving performance that showcases Dawson’s vocal prowess. It’s also a great chance for aspiring lap-steel players to get an up-close look at his fingerpicking and slide-bar technique. Ultimately, though, it’s about the feel, and that’s something that stands out in Dawson’s work. Although he has no shortage of chops, he’s an unfailingly tasteful player, always putting the groove and the song ahead of the flash. Dawson is also a master of dynamics, knowing how to vary his volume and attack to create dramatic tension. That’s a tool he uses to great effect on this performance and throughout Solid States and Loose Ends.