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Review Fri Feb 04 2011

Review: Steve Dawson @ The Hideout, 1/28/11

[Reviews and photo submitted by reader Rob Reid.]

The last year was a good one for Steve Dawson's current project, a collaboration with a tremendous backing band — Frank Rosaly on drums, Jason Roebke on bass, and Jason Adasiewicz on vibes. In May of 2010 they celebrated the release of Dawson's second solo album, the organic and emotive I Will Miss the Trumpets and the Drums with a release party at the Old Town School of Folk Music, and followed up with regular gigs at city and regional venues. Last weekend's show at the Hideout (a venue whose sepia tones befit the alt country scene) — where they were joined by Alton Smith on keyboard and accordion — is evidence that they're only getting better. While on the surface it might seem like the jazz cats in Dawson's group would be overqualified to play singer/songwriter fare, this group not only excels at weaving an emotional fabric around Dawson's expressive vocal and guitar lines, but also sneaks in free jazz style jams throughout the set. This is a group that clearly has fun on stage, and likewise is fun to watch.

Following a lively and engaging set by Melanie Budd, one of Dawson's overachieving songwriting students at the Old Town School of Folk Music, Dawson's band gently eased into "The Monkey Mind is on the Prowl." Murmurs in the crowd revealed that the strange keyboard instrument that Diane Christiansen (Dawson's wife and Dolly Varden collaborator) blew into was a melodica. Patiently building the set, Dawson's band followed with his fingerstyle gem "Long Overdue." This tune — performed with only bare guitar and vocals on the album — was given a little extra kick from the band's shuffling groove. It wasn't until the third song that Dawson picked up the energy with the anthemic "Obsidian," followed by a cover of Buck Owens' "Your Tender Loving Care."


After "Friend Like a Wheel," Alton Smith and Diane Christiansen filled out vocal harmonies for the acapella "I Wish That I Could Believe in You Again," which was then rehashed instrumentally showcasing a frenetic vibe solo from Adasiewicz. Dawson frequently (and justifiably) forays into white soul, and "Love is a Blessing" was a solid example of this. After another pair of tracks from his first solo album, "Sweet is the Anchor," Dawson tipped his hat to another soulful white by bringing Van Morrison's "Sweet Thing" to life. It was funny how he modestly prefaced the song with "I'm gonna try this Van Morrison song now"— as if there was any doubt that his band had the chops to bring a jukebox classic to life.

Diane Christiansen returned to the stage to fill out vocal harmonies and inter-song banter for "Preaching to the Choir." After an audience member shouted out, "I love your haircut," she responded, "Thanks, I was insecure about it." The song ended with a short free jazz break, which highlighted the true genius of Frank Rosaly: when he accidentally knocked over his crash cymbal, it hit the floor precisely on the beat. As the band segued into "Mastodons" without pause, Rosaly clenched one drumstick between his teeth as a pirate his cutlass, holding the beat with the other stick while reaching over to restore the fallen cymbal.

The band closed out the night with "Goodbye and I'll Always be Waiting," followed by a quirky encore. This final tune, sung in a British accent, poked fun at one of Dawson's former employers (tactfully left unnamed), a boss who couldn't say how late he'd be coming in to work because his sensitive skin required him to air dry after a bath. Dawson called out a solo for Rosaly, now on vibes, who jumped up and down while repeating the melodic motif.

Steve Dawson will be performing at the Liz Phair tribute night (led by Robbie Fulks) at the Hideout on Monday, February 7, before heading out to Great Britain for a two week tour as a duo with Diane Christiansen. There's a $10 suggested donation and music starts at 7pm.

-Rob Reid

[About the author: After creeping out all three bands in the underappreciated '90s New
Hampshire "scene" via suffocating journalistic coverage, Rob now
occasionally writes about underrecognized Chicago acts that would've
been huge in New Hampshire.]

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


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