Al Dawson
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Al Dawson

Mesilla, New Mexico, United States | INDIE

Mesilla, New Mexico, United States | INDIE
Band Folk Acoustic


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Heck of a Picker"

Al Dawson played with us at a concert in Las Cruces and not only is he a heck of a picker, he's a fantastic harmony singer, great songwriter, and an all around nice fella. We look forward to making more music with him in the future!

Stephanie Bettman & Luke Halpin - Stephanie Bettman & Luke Halpin

"A Well Spent Evening"

On a cool evening in June, 50 people sat in an outdoor patio on the high mesa above the Mesilla Valley listening to the music of Al Dawson. What a treat! A recent transplant from the Chicago music scene, Al is an accomplished guitar player. Al treated the audience to a sampling of songs from his new CD "Against the Grain," a collection of gentle but evocative melodies full of poetry about love, life and beauty skillfully blended with stylish acoustic guitar arrangements. The music was a little bit country, a little bit blues, but all folk; accompanied by the sounds of the high desert. Crickets chirped, Al sang, poetic images drifted on the cool evening air, and guitar echoed warmly off the adobe garden walls. It was an evening well spent among friends and neighbors, enjoying the artistry, wisdom and humor of a down-to-earth folk musician.

Steve Ludington - Steve Ludington

"Full House"

Al Dawson has performed twice at the Fountain Theatre as part of the Mesilla Valley Film Society's 'Music Before the Movie' program. His strong but casual performances of his own works and that of others has already garnered requests for a return engagement. His closing piece during his first show had the audience (a full house, I might add) singing along, something which had not happened before with other artists that have played for the series.

Jeff Berg
MVFS Board Member - Jeff Berg MVFS Board Member

"If I Had A Nickle..."

If I had a nickel for every time my old buddy Al Dawson told me what a great singer/songwriter/guitarist/multi- instrumentalist/arranger/producer/philosopher /friend he is, I guess I’d still just have the nickel I came in with. And then he’d borrow it from me. That’s the Al Dawson I know.
Enjoy the music.
--John Seay, April 2008
- John Seay

"Avenging Angel Still Alive"

When I was fifteen years old I was the youngest of a half-dozen local folkies performing weekly in an improvised “coffeehouse” housed in the auditorium of Service Club #2 on Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. It was an odd environment for boys and girls who sang songs about peace (both political and inner) and love (both romantic and universal) at the height of the Vietnam War and the first few Sunday nights were more than a little awkward; the audience in their uniforms, regulation post basic training haircuts and fatigues and the performers in ours, embroidered jeans, work shirts and long hair-well, most of us had long hair.

Al Dawson knew the same songs that we knew and some that we didn’t. He came from Chicago and it was from Al that I first heard about the Old Town School of Folk Music and the names and songs of John Prine and Steve Goodman. He had the first slot head dreadnought Martin I ever saw in person and he played it as if it were an extension of his self and when he sang his voice rang out through the club and even the gung ho GI’s who avoided the auditorium like the plague on Sunday nights stuck their heads in the door. Then they’d see that, to their surprise it wasn’t one of us draft dodgers but one of their own and sometimes they’d slip into the back row and listen for a while.

After six months the Powers That Were closed the coffeehouse down without explanation and I never saw Al again. Word on the street was that he received his orders for Vietnam and shipped out a few weeks later and was killed there the following year. For 37 some odd years I believed that Al Dawson was dead.

Well he ain’t. Earlier this year, I mentioned Al’s name in an interview with a Chicago paper and a friend of Al’s saw it and e-mailed Al and Al e-mailed then the paper and the paper called me and…

Well, anyway Al Dawson’s alive and well and living in New Mexico and he still plays and sings like an avenging angel.

Steve Earle
April, 2008
- Steve Earle


Against The Grain-released 2008
A Traveler's Hat-released 2010
Synthesis (as a drummer with the Cryan Shames)-released 1968



Al Dawson was born to two farmers in the Midwest in what was then a rural area but is now a suburb of Chicago. At a young age his parents instilled in him a love of music. In fact he recorded his first record “How Much Is That Doggy in the Window” at the age of four, and the acetate of that recording is probably choking off plants in some faraway landfill somewhere. While a young boy he would ride along in the family sedan in the annual trek to somewhere in the vast expanses of America. One year it would be to California and the next to the Dakotas and the next to Florida. It was the Florida trips that he remembers best. There were no interstates then and the southern two lane route out of Illinois took them through the heart of the rural south, through the small towns with their segregated drinking fountains and washrooms. The road passed by small shacks on the sides of the road where old black men sat on front porches and played country blues to no one in particular. Al could hear some of these songs as his father drove slowly southward along the tree lined roads. This was the first music to etch itself into his young memory.
In his early teens his parents encouraged him to join a drum and bugle corps and learn the drums. He studied under Mitch Markovich who was the three time consecutive national rudimental drum champion. Al learned all the important snare drum chops and toured with Mitch to the various drum championships. When home, and while his parents were out of the house, he would crank up the volume on their console record player while listening to his sister’s 45’s, playing snare along with Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and other rock and rollers from the era. He eventually bought a used Gretsch drum set that had cowhide heads and wooden rims with wooden lug nuts that were fused in place so the heads could not be tuned. He started playing in high school bands and remembers that once the crowds filled the auditoriums the heat and humidity went up and the drum heads went slack. The only cure was to carry a space heater around and three or four times a night hold the heads up to the heater to tighten them up. He also joined the school choir. He found that singing came naturally and was told by the choir director that with a voice like his he would go far. But it was in 1964 that his musical path was cemented. Otis Redding’s recording of “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” came on the radio and through the tiny dashboard speaker of his father’s Dodge he realized what his whole life was about to become. “I had always thought, and maybe was taught that way, that being a singer was about hitting the right notes and phrasing correctly but until that moment I never realized that pure, raw emotion trumps everything. I knew then that all I wanted to do was sing”.
The following year, 1965, marked another important moment in Al’s life, as it does in all teenagers’ lives. He got his driver’s license. Now able to borrow his father’s car, he began almost weekly Sunday morning trips to Maxwell Street on Chicago’s near west side. There, music that had been performed since the 1930’s and 1940’s and became known as the Chicago Blues could be heard on the streets and in the alleys being played by what would become some of the legends of electric blues. Ignoring the vendors with their stolen goods (and great prices) he went straight toward the electrified sounds of something he recalled from the back of his memory-the sounds of the old black men sitting on their porches in the Deep South. This could be the point at which Al began to really absorb everything about music. His parents listened to country and western, his sister rock and roll; the local stations were playing The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who (still Al’s favorite rock band). He wanted to learn all about all the styles, sounds, genres, all that music ever was and would be. He listened to Big Bill Hill and the blues and R&B on WOPA, all the pop music on WCFL and WLS, Ralph Emery and country on WSM at night, classical on WEFM, WFMT and WNIB, jazz on WAAF and folk on WFMT.
Yes, Al became a music sponge, soaking up the rhythms and styles surrounding him but he was, after all, a teenager and teenagers love rock and roll. And most of the local bands that consisted of and were playing to teenagers were rock bands. So that is the direction he was headed. After playing in a number of school bands he got an audition with a local band with a Beatle type sound called the Squires, which featured a young guitarist and songwriter named Lenny Kerley (more on him later). He auditioned on their current drummer’s kit which was unfamiliar to him and he didn’t know how to set it up so their roadie put them together while the band members stared at Al thinking “what the hell’s with this guy?” But, perhaps miraculously, he passed the audition. It was time for a real drum set so he went to Frank’s Drum Shop in downtown C