Featuring stirring performances from a host of superb guitarists (including Kelly Joe Phelps, Bruce Cockburn, Bill Frisell, and Bob Brozman), the album is both an aural delight and an inspiring collection of edgy songs.

Steve Dawson
Nightshade
Black Hen Music


In 2008, Steve Dawson gained national attention for producing Things About Comin’ My Way, a tribute to the Mississippi Sheiks—the pioneering string band founded by the Chatmon brothers in 1930. Featuring stirring performances from a host of superb guitarists (including Kelly Joe Phelps, Bruce Cockburn, Bill Frisell, and Bob Brozman), the album is both an aural delight and an inspiring collection of edgy songs.

Now with Nightshade, the Vancouver-based Dawson proves he has his own story to tell. His songs offer a compelling blend of tight grooves and dark, haunted lyrics, but it’s the guitar playing that stops me in my tracks. Whether he’s fretting gritty solos, playing burning bottleneck blues, laying down wicked Weissenborn licks, or soaring on pedal steel, his timing, tone, and dynamics are impeccable. While always serving the ensemble, Dawson’s multi-faceted picking plays the starring role in this 12-song collection.

If you dig Greg Leisz’s pedal steel, you’ll smile as Dawson sonically conjures a Lava Lamp on “We Still Won the War.” If your thing is early Kelly Joe Phelps or Ben Harper, you’ll hear echoes of their sweetly stinging bar work in “Fairweather Friends,” “Darker Still,” and the album’s title track. Throughout Nightshade, Dawson also draws on Steve Cropper, Leo Kottke, Dominos-era Eric Clapton, and the more pensive side of Jimi Hendrix to create a soulful guitar orchestra.

Multiple modulation modes and malleable voices cement a venerable pedal’s classic status.

Huge range of mellow to immersive modulation sounds. Easy to use. Stereo output. Useful input gain control.

Can sound thin compared to many analog chorus and flange classics.

$149

TC Electronic SCF Gold
tcelectronic.com

4.5
4
4.5
5

When you consider stompboxes that have achieved ubiquity and longevity, images of Tube Screamers, Big Muffs, or Boss’ DD series delays probably flash before your eyes. It’s less likely that TC Electronic’s Stereo Chorus Flanger comes to mind. But when you consider that its fundamental architecture has remained essentially unchanged since 1976 and that it has consistently satisfied persnickety tone hounds like Eric Johnson, it’s hard to not be dazzled by its staying power—or wonder what makes it such an indispensable staple for so many players.

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While Monolord has no shortage of the dark and heavy, guitarist and vocalist Thomas V Jäger comes at it from a perspective more common to pop songsmiths.

Photo by Chad Kelco

Melodies, hooks, clean tones, and no guitar solos. Are we sure this Elliott Smith fan fronts a doom-metal band? (We’re sure!)

Legend has it the name Monolord refers to a friend of the band with the same moniker who lost hearing in his left ear, and later said it didn’t matter if the band recorded anything in stereo, because he could not hear it anyway. It’s a funny, though slightly tragic, bit of backstory, but that handle is befitting in yet another, perhaps even more profound, way. Doom and stoner metal are arguably the torch-bearing subgenres for hard rock guitar players, and if any band seems to hold the keys to the castle at this moment, it’s Monolord.

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