This record – which follows ‘Gone, Long Gone’ and ‘Phantom Threshold’ – is billed as the third instalment of Dawson’s ‘pandemic trilogy’. It was recorded under lockdown conditions with other North American artists contributing their parts remotely.
It should be noted that this Steve Dawson is a Nashville-based Canadian musician; not the ex-Dolly Varden frontman.
Old Birds of Chicago partner, Allison Russell sings on three tracks, while Fats Kaplin and Tim O’Brien play mandolin and various strings on several compositions. Dawson’s daughter Casey was even recruited to add some vocal backing.
At the heart of the album are four original songs - The Owl, A Gift, Hemingway and Polaroid – all co-written with Matt Patershuk.
Covers and a smattering of chilled and/or ragtime instrumentals make up the remaining seven tracks. Among these is an overly refined take on the much covered ballad House Carpenter, a weak sibling to Clarence Ashley’s raw banjo version which graced Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music.
Other borrowed tunes include Ian Tyson’s Long Time to Get Old, Bobby Charles’ Small Town Talk (complete with horn section), John Hartford’s Let Him Go On Mama and Johnny Cash’s Guess Things Happen That Way (written by Cowboy Jack Clement).
In short, this is a collection of solid, country-tinged song-craft with tunes made in, and designed for, a mellow frame of mind.
Steve Dawson’s website