Eyes Closed, Dreaming – Steve Dawson

4 stars (out of 5)


There are a couple of things you can expect from any Steve Dawson album: it’s going to be beautifully arranged and played, and definitely unpredictable. ‘Eyes Closed, Dreaming’ doesn’t disappoint on either count. It’s the third of Steve’s pandemic albums, with contributions pieced together remotely, a logical and necessary extension during lockdown of the studio practice of recording parts separately. It’s a tribute to Steve and all the superb musicians involved that the whole album feels like it was recorded by musicians playing in the same room. The arrangements on the album are trademark Steve Dawson with lots of layers of guitars and a whole raft of instruments that are unusual in any context but particularly in Americana arrangements. As ever, he makes it work, creating soundscapes that sound uncluttered while using multiple guitars, bass, drums, keyboards (including Moog and mellotron), strings, horns and even marxophone, vibraphone and pump organ.

Steve enjoys reworking other people’s songs with his own spin and there are four of those on the album, ‘Long Time to Get Old’ and ‘Guess Things Happen That Way’ get the swampy Southern rock treatment, while ‘Small Town Talk’ with its horns, nods in the direction of Muscle Shoals and ‘Let Him Go on Mama’ is a solo piece with Weissenborn backing that closes the album. There are also a couple of reworkings of traditional songs. These are all great versions that give Steve a chance to have a bit of fun and show his instrumental versatility, but the backbone of the album is the four songs co-written with Matt Patershuk.

Matt’s a hugely creative and poetic songwriter and the four co-writes are a good representation of the breadth of topics he likes to cover, from the nostalgic ‘Polaroid’, harking back to a pre-digital era to the wonders of nature expressed in ‘The Owl’. ‘Hemingway’ references, well, Ernest Hemingway, while ‘A Gift’ is about taking care of your family and showing pride in workmanship. Like all of Matt’s songs, they’re thought-provoking and occasionally spring a few surprises. As good as the rest of the album is, these four songs shine brightly.

Steve Dawson’s one of the many that accepted the pandemic lemons and made artisan lemonade by learning a completely new way of working and using the enforced break to create three superb albums. ‘Eyes Closed, Dreaming’ covers a range of styles from folk ballads through Americana to ragtime and Hawaiian music and Steve sounds convincing in all of them with his range of instruments, particularly the Weissenborn. And I almost forgot to mention that he has a great laid-back and soulful vocal style. You won’t get bored listening to this album.

‘’Eyes Closed, Dreaming’ is released on Black Hen Music (BHCD0098) on Friday March 24th.

Here’s a live studio video for ‘Small Town Talk’:

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