Review: Steve Dawson – Eyes Closed, Dreaming


Steve Dawson - Eyes Closed, Dreaming

Steve Dawson – Eyes Closed, Dreaming
Format: CD – Digital / Label: Black Hen Music
Release: 2023

Tekst: Bert van Kessel

For Nashville-based Canadian singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Steve Dawson the 2020 lockdown turned out to be such a prolific period that he decided to record and release a trilogy: part one was a fine album ‘Gone Long Gone‘, released last year to rave reviews, and part two was the fully instrumental and psychedelic ‘Phantom Threshold‘ which has gone rather unnoticed (at least by me).

As with the first instalment many contributions to  ‘Eyes Closed, Dreaming’ were delivered long-distance from all over continent, but the eleven tracks, as varied as they are,  surely add up to a warm and coherent whole. He wrote four songs together with his friend Matt Patershuk and the other songs that he picked, fit seamlessly.

The opening track is Ian Tyson’s Long Time To Get Old and it makes clear straightaway that the standard is set immensely high for this album. There is an amazing acoustic slide and Fats Kaplan excels on manddolin.  Background vocals are contributed by Allison Russell, with whom Steve cooperated in Birds Of Chicago.

On the original A Gift Steve Dawson displays his exceptional qualities on the acoustic guitar and pedal steel. The mellow, acoustic Hemingway features beautiful violin and cello, with harmony vocals by daughter Casey; it  is in many respects a true sequel to the title track of ‘Gone Long Gone’.

The traditional House Carpenter was made famous by Pentangle and it shows exquisite interplay between Steve Dawson’s Weissenborn and Tim O Brien’s mandolin. The original The Owl features a dazzling lap steel. The Bobby Charles composition Small Town Talk gets a soulful rendition with a New Orleans twist, featuring Kevin McKendree’s keyboards and an enthusiastic horns section.

After the undisputed prize number Polaroid Steve displays his unequalled skills on the Weissenborn and the ukelele on The instrumental Wakiki Stonewall Rag. Another well-chosen cover is Jack Clement’s Guess Things Happen That Way (0f Johnny Cash fame); it leads up to the stunning closing track, John Hartford’s Let Him Go Mama, which features just Steve’s vocals and Weissenborn; It is a great way to conclude a great album.

After a three-decade career, Steve Dawson has surpassed himself with this five-star album.

01. Long Time to Get Old
02. A Gift
03. Hemingway
04. House Carpenter
05. Small Town Talk
06. The Owl
07. Waikiki Stonewall Rag
08. Polaroid
09. Singin’ the Blues
10. Guess Things Happen That Way
11. Let Him Go On Mama