Steve Dawson - Telescope
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Steve Dawson - Telescope

| INDIE | AFM

| INDIE | AFM
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"Telescope Review"

Back in 1999, a friend who knows my taste in music introduced me to a duo called Zubot and Dawson. Their first album, Strang, established their distinctive sound—a unique blend of Steve Dawson’s Weissenborn lap guitar and Jesse Zubot’s violin. I was hooked! After several Z&B;releases, Dawson has gone on to become a prolific producer and sideman and has released several excellent solo CDs on his Vancouver-based Black Hen label. Telescope, his latest, is one of two new CDs from him in 2008. This all-instrumental album features his new passion, pedal steel guitar. He has used the same core players as his last release, Waiting For The Lights To Come Up, with Keith Lowe on bass, Chris Gestrin on keyboards and Scott Amendola on drums plus a few guests. But it is Steve himself, on pedal steel, guitar, lap guitar, ukulele and various unusual keyboards, who is the star here. From the opener “Caballero’s Dream,” which Clint Eastwood could use in a duster flick, to “Speaker Damage,” “Nailbiter” and ”Fun Machine Two,” it is a never-ending variety of styles and sounds, with pedal steel right up front. It is a great CD, and shows the pedal steel is not just a country instrument anymore.

- Rod McCrimmon - Monday Magazine


"Telescope Review"

Steve Dawson's pedal steel guitar flourishes outside the country genre, and much like jazz, sets a mood you can’t relinquish.
The pedal steel guitar has been traditionally pegged to a certain kind of melodic, moody country music. And most of the time, although I always get really excited to hear the instrument, and follow the melody like a drunken man’s eyes on the most promiscuous-looking woman in the bar, the pedal steel normally gets to step to centre stage and shine only once in a song: on the bridge. On Telescope, Steve Dawson liberates the pedal steel from the rigorous strictures of the genre. Or at least partly so. The long, relaxed melodies that the pedal steel seems to lend itself to are still present. But interacting with the ringing voice of the lead instrument are jazzy bass lines; thick, throaty organs; and, on "Speaker Damage," a spooky electric guitar riff over a looped percussion track. On this collection of instrumentals, the pedal steel is the voice of the band. The deliberative, melancholy, distinctly American yearning of the pedal steel sings hauntingly on each track.
Maybe ironically, it’s a song on Telescope that has the pedal steel producing a more traditional, recognizable sound that I really admire. "The Hunt Is On" is a beautifully arranged waltz-tempo song in which the pedal steel and acoustic guitar exchange somber melodic licks worthy of Sun Kil Moon.
But haven’t bands like Japancakes already liberated the pedal steel from its 1950’s country sound? Maybe. But the more pedal steel, and the more experimentation, the better. - www.PanPot.ca


"Telescope Review"

Steve Dawson hails now from Vancouver, B.C. which is not exactly pedal steel guitar territory, however a number of years ago he received a grant from the Canada Council For The Arts to study pedal steel with Greg Leisz one of the foremost players of said instrument. He used the time wisely, learned his lessons well, though most people know the pedal steel as a country music instrument he is using it sonically to create texture and space in his compositions, much like fellow Canadian Daniel Lanois. Dawson has made his mark in Canada as a musician/producer/and songwriter, and assembled a crack band to release two albums this year, this all-instrumental disc is actually the second of the two, however the first to get to the desk and thus the ears. It is mood shaping by being sound bending and creating interplay between the instruments; it is based both on structure and improvisation.
Before thinking Dawson is a one-instrument wonder, he first came to attention playing guitar and producing Tom Taylor, but it was his guitar playing that caught the ear. As well as pedal steel he plays all acoustic, electric, baritone, and slide guitars, ukulele, banjo, pump organ, marxophone, piano and glockenspiel. As said this is a band effort and he has Keith Low on electric and acoustic bass, Scott Amendola on drums, Chris Gestrin on organ piano, Wurlitzer, fun machine and clavioline. Mr. Dawson also produced and wrote all the songs except 1000 Year Old Egg, which he wrote with Chris Gestrin. We have here a Canadian that is not getting deserved airplay in the U. S. - AcousticMusic.com


"Telescope Review"

Of the two new albums this Vancouver based musician/producer/songwriter will release this year, this one is completely instrumental and completely experimental. Dawson recently learned the pedal steel guitar and decided that he wanted to make an album to showcase it and also take it out of its country genre while doing new things with the instrument.
The pedal steel guitar is a complex type of slide guitar that with a series of foot pedals and knee levers to raise or lower the pitches of the strings. Other interesting instruments featured on the album include a ukulele, pump organ, marxophone, glockenspiel, wurlitzer, fun machine, clavioline, and moog. The result of all this is a unique and special soundscape of experimentation that is at times structured but also improvisational.
The interplay of the instruments and the melodies that are created are something that can be listened to intently even though the songs have no words. Each song has its own rare qualities and layered texture of sounds. Although this album is not for everyone, it is a wonderful showcase of a how an instrument can be manipulated and experimented with in a new genre. One might expect to hear this album in an eclectic coffee shop or an eccentric gift shop. - www.AnEvibe.com


"Telescope Review"

Although widely respected and rather successful in Canada where he resides, Steve Dawson remains relatively unknown in the United States. This fact will undoubtedly change over time. Telescope is the companion album to Dawson's recently released Waiting For the Lights To Come Up...mainly because both were recorded during the same time period...but that is where the similarities end. While Waiting features the cool, hummable guitar tunes Steve is mainly known for, Telescope takes off in a completely different direction. In 2005 Dawson began studying pedal steel guitar with guru Greg Leinsz (one of the most recorded steel players of all time). He eventually became comfortable enough with the instrument to record this album with supporting players Keith Lowe (bass), Chris Gestrin (keyboards), and Scott Amendola (drums). It was no shock to find that Tom Verlaine, Bill Frisell, and Brian Eno were influential in the creation of this music...but we were pleasantly surprised to note that Steve was also influenced by steel pioneers Japancakes. While Telescopes expands the uses of steel guitar, the album is by no means a noisy art creation. Mr. Dawson always provides quality listenable music...and there is plenty to be found on this album. Smooth, provocative tunes include "Caballero's Dream," "Speaker Damage," "Nailbiter," and "1000 Year Old Egg." Smooth and exotic. Recommended. - www.babysue.com


Discography

Album Releases as Solo Artist, or Featured Band Member:
2008 - Waiting for the Lights to Come Up (solo)
2005 - We Belong to the Gold Coast (solo)
2003 – Blow the House Down (Great Uncles of the Revolution)
2002 – Chicken Scratch (Zubot and Dawson)
2001 – Bug Parade (solo), Stand Up! (Great Uncles of the Revolution)
2000 – Tractor Parts (Zubot and Dawson)
1998 – Strang (Zubot and Dawson)
1994 – Don’t Need Much (The Spirit Merchants)

Photos

Bio

Acclaimed Vancouver, BC musician/producer/songwriter Steve Dawson will release 2 new albums of his work in 2008; “Waiting For The Lights To Come Up” and “Telescope”.

“I decided to record two albums at once this year. It wasn’t what I set out to do originally. I was getting ready to make a record that would feature a new batch of songs that I had been writing, but at the same time, I was learning the pedal steel guitar, and had been writing ensemble-based music that would feature that instrument.”

Rather than waiting and recording them separately, Dawson decided to put together a crack band and spend a few days in the studio getting the majority of both albums done at once. The idea was to create two completely different projects that tied together sonically and that shared a similar energy. “I thought it would be interesting to have them both done in the same space at the same time, and by the same people.”

The musicians are players with whom he’s been making a lot of records over the last few years. The band comprises Keith Lowe (Bill Frisell, Fiona Apple) on bass, Chris Gestrin (Randy Bachman, K-OS) on keyboards, and Scott Amendola (T.J. Kirk, Bill Frisell, Madeline Peyroux) on drums.

“With musicians of this caliber, I knew that most of the magic would be happening quickly on early takes, even before the band was too comfortable with the new material.” Dawson and the band set up shop in The Factory Studios in Vancouver and proceeded to record the bulk of the two records in about 5 days. Dawson took the tracks back to his Henhouse Studio to add overdubs, textures and sound manipulation. The result is a wonderful and arresting pair of new releases — “Waiting For the Lights To Come Up” and “Telescope”.

Telescope

The second album in the series, “Telescope”, is an all-instrumental release written primarily on, and based around the pedal steel guitar. Steve set out to create music that was a showcase for the voice of the pedal steel, a complex form of slide guitar with a series of foot pedals and knee levers that raise or lower the pitches of the individual 10 strings.

“Telescope” has been in the works since 2005, when Steve received a grant from the Canada Council For The Arts to study the pedal steel guitar with Greg Leisz, one of the most influential, not to mention one of the most recorded steel players in modern recorded music. Steve spent time working with Greg in short spurts over the next 2 years and during this intensive period, began writing music for the steel guitar. “Most people know the pedal steel as a country instrument, but I wanted to write music for it that was outside that genre… so these tunes started coming together and I thought it would be fun to try it with this group of musicians” says Dawson.

The result is a beautifully unique instrumental album that emphasizes melody and interplay, displaying healthy doses of both structure and improvisation. “Some of the songs, like ‘Caballero’s Dream’ were planned out entirely, while others like ‘Speaker Damage’ were left more open for the musicians. “on that one, I had the rhythm section playing to a recorded loop that I created that had nothing to do with the final song. I wanted to experiment with the idea of having the drummer and bass player reacting to something that you don’t actually hear in the finished piece. The title comes from a really cheap distortion pedal I have that emulates a broken speaker. It got a lot of use on that track!”

“’Fun Machine Two’ is the sequel to a tune from my last album, both of which were written using a cheesy organ called the Fun Machine. It’s got some great drum moments care of Scott Amendola who I really encouraged to let loose and release his inner John Bonham. He was playing so loud that all the studio equipment was peaking out, but I loved the sound, so we left it like that”.

“‘Nailbiter’ is a fun song that I wanted to get really unique sounds on, so we recorded the drums from quite far away, and the piano sounded too much like a piano, so I dumped a case of blank CD’s onto the strings to deaden them, but they ended up jingling around when the notes were hit. I loved that sound too – sort of like an old tack piano. Now that’s productive use of digital technology!”.

“… I’m not a flashy player in the traditional sense, and I didn’t want this record to be a showcase for over-the-top pyrotchnics. It’s more about the feel, the tones and the mood that the steel guitar can conjure up... ”

“At the time I was writing this music I was very inspired by Tom Verlaine, Bill Frisell, Brian Eno, and Japancakes…” says Dawson “…and the way they use repetition and tone to create a mood. Some of these new songs have quite long melodies, which I think is a product of listening to that kind of music. At the same time, I was reading a book about recording the Beatles, and revisiting their music - that manifests itself in the way we recorded some of the instruments… particularly the drums,