If the importance of time separates music from other artistic mediums, then it stands to reason that great musicians would have a very good command of it. Years before the pandemic, Steve Dawson wasted no time immersing himself into nearly every aspect of music. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that he has capitalized on the past couple years, digging into his own writing, and coming up with a great album. His previous effort, Solid States and Loose Ends was a very good album—Gone, Long Gone, is superb.
Great songs and great sounds serve as the foundation of most excellent LPs. Another aspect of musicianship and artistry is knowing when to back away and let the music breathe. Not only does Dawson understand both of these concepts, but his large team of contributors adhere to the same principles. Sometimes, less is more.
“Dimes,” a straightforward, buzzy-riffed blues song, fills its verses with loads of blues-truisms. “Bad Omen” follows this pattern with lines like, “There’s a bad omen scratchin’ at the door, and I just let it in.” Dawson rehydrates post-war blues through another avenue, calling upon the strident voice of the hard-luck storyteller, but holding pride with, “King Bennie Had His Shit Together.” “6 Skeletons” leads with hard-charging rhythmic guitar that feels as if it might be too fast for the tempo, but Dawson and Crew swoop in at the right times with searing slide pieces and calculated guitar scribbles. All of these structures, lyrics, and instrumental diversions are well contemplated and soft on the ears.
“Gone, Long Gone,” one of the album’s best, starts with an airy string arrangement, but quickly delves into some deft fingerpicked patterns that reference blues staples while still sounding wholly original. The same can be said for the closer, “Time Has Made A Fool Out Of Me.” The song sounds as if the listener has heard it before. Fitting cadences and tones resolve the ten tracks excellently, and leave the listener wanting more.
The real gem of the bunch might be “Cicada Sanctuary.” Solo guitar pieces always carry a big risk, but they also reward well, especially when the player runs through a variety of scales without sounding like a braggart. Every move here feels smooth and correct. It’s an excellent piece of guitarism.
Gone, Long Gone won’t be for everyone. However, this is an album that reveals itself listen-by-listen. Stripping away the music leaves very well written words. Dawson’s voice and lead are deserving of a spin. The band is remarkable. The strings, the horns, the backing vocals are all excellent. Most importantly, the appreciation of time and sonic space set this work apart. Rumor has it that Steve Dawson has two more of these LPs in the can. If that’s true, modern blues fans should be salivating. Until then, this platter should keep your turntable very happy.
The Review: 9/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Gone, Long Gone
– Cicada Sanctuary
– Time Has Made A Fool Out Of Me
The Big Hit
– Cicada Sanctuary