Special Guests Include a String Quartet Arranged by Jesse Zubot, and Appearances by Charlie McCoy and John Reischman
“It is inspiring to hear modern instrumental music for guitar that is articulated within true song form. Steve Dawson’s new album conjures the ghost of John Fahey for me – not in imitation, but by way of joining a tradition and then extending its range. I find this song cycle to be intelligent and challenging; joyful and deeply romantic; both earthy and untethered. It is affirming – and music to which I shall soon be returning.” – Grammy-Winning Artist and Producer Joe Henry
NASHVILLE, TN – Black Hen Music announces a June 15 release date for multiple Juno-award-winning musician/producer Steve Dawson’s new instrumental acoustic album, Lucky Hand. The new recording showcases Dawson’s brilliant fingerstyle work on a variety of instruments, accompanied by special guests Jesse Zubot on violin, harmonica legend Charlie McCoy and mandolinist John Reischman, as well as the presence of a string quartet on a number of tracks. The album will be available on both CD and vinyl LP formats.
Lucky Hand is Steve Dawson’s 8th album and his first record of instrumental music since Rattlesnake Cage in 2014. The scope of his musical voice broadens to take on a cinematic quality, as he sketches aural paintings and creates tapestries of sound with his guitar. Recorded live off the floor, with up to 12 microphones in various positions throughout the large studio space to capture the guitar and orchestration, Lucky Hand represents the perfect intersection of the primitive and the modern that has fascinated Dawson for so long.
“I wanted to re-explore the acoustic fingerstyle and slide guitar pieces that I’d started with my Rattlesnake Cage album in 2014,” says Dawson, “but this time I thought it would be fun to augment that with something special; so I hooked up with my old musical partner Jesse Zubot, who created some string arrangements around the music that were meant to augment them and push the pieces along, rather than just be passive accompaniment.”
Lucky Hand represents a high point of more than two decades of musical searching for Steve Dawson. Comprised of ten instrumental tracks of solo, duo and full-bodied string quartet works, Dawson has never released music as sweeping, dynamic and visually suggestive as this. Enlisting Jesse Zubot in the project to create complementary and adventurous arrangements for his guitar excursions, these completely realized compositions – with Zubot’s orchestration adding color to the sepia tinged melodies – represent Dawson’s finest recordings yet. 2018 marks 20 years since the debut of Zubot and Dawson, and their collaborations never cease to inspire.
“I’m interested in guitar music as a way to express song-form rather than guitar pyrotechnics,” Dawson proclaims. “I don’t really relate to modern fingerstyle music that much, although players from the 1920s up through the 1970s are what originally and still inspire me. But I still wanted to do something modern and different, which is where the duo ideas with John Reischman and Charlie McCoy, as well as the more intense string arrangement concepts all came from.
“We recorded this album in Vancouver, with all of us playing together live, using vintage mics in a big room. It was me facing the quartet, which was in a semi-circle in front of me. I’ve never done anything like that before. We just played the pieces until we got it. The challenge was to get a good performance from me while the strings were getting through their intricate parts. Everyone was sweating a little!”
All of Dawson’s records feature a wide array of stringed instruments, and Lucky Hand is no exception. His artistry on the six and twelve string guitars shimmers throughout, while the track “Bugscuffle” showcases his unique tuning and voice on the Weissenborn lap guitar. “Bentonia Blues” features a thrilling duet between Dawson’s National Steel Guitar and roots legend Charlie McCoy’s harmonica. Gorgeous interplay abounds as his guitar converses with John Reischman’s mandolin on “Little Harpeth.” At times it’s hard to tell where Dawson’s guitar begins and Reischman’s mandolin ends. A truly masterful performance, it’s just one of the many breathless, transcendent moments to be heard on Lucky Hand.
With song titles like “Lonesome Ace” and “Lucky Hand,” a person could be forgiven for thinking that Dawson attributes his creativity to chance and caprice. In truth, each of these songs is named for the inspiration of places he’s encountered around his Nashville hometown. Music like this has nothing to do with good fortune, unless you’re talking about his listeners. For them, Lucky Hand is a royal flush of a record.
Listen to Steve Dawson’s podcast, “Music Makers and Soul Shakers.” New episodes every Wednesday: www.stevedawson.ca/makersandshakers