“Gone, Long Gone” – Steve Dawson

4 stars (out of 5)

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We’re still seeing and hearing albums created during the lockdown using remote technology; this one’s a bit different in that it’s the first of three albums recorded by Steve Dawson during the pandemic featuring songs that might otherwise never have been released. The ten songs on “Gone, Long Gone” reflect the eclectic nature of Steve Dawson’s work as a performer and producer. As a multi-instrumentalist and keen student of musical history, Steve brings a wide range of influences and musical knowledge to anything he does; his own album is no exception. Of the ten tracks, there are two contrasting instrumentals, showcasing Steve’s exceptional guitar skills, seven songs co-written with the brilliant Matt Patershuk, and one cover.

The cover is a song that everyone with any interest in music at all seems to love (apart from Rod Stewart, who apparently refused to sing on the Faces studio version of the song). Steve takes it at a very relaxed pace, building up to big harmonies in the chorus and showcase solos towards the end. It’s not quite as punchy as the original, but it’s an honest effort and a lovely homage. The two instrumentals demonstrate different facets of Steve’s work: his interest in Hawaiian music shines through “Kulaniapia Waltz”, creating an authentic feel with ukulele and steel guitar, plus the not-so-authentic pump organ while “Cicada Sanctuary” is a solo acoustic guitar piece inspired by hearing the noise of massed cicadas and being inspired to play something that fitted the mood. Both are very evocative mood pieces.

The remaining seven songs are the Matt Patershuk co-writes. Steve has always been wary of the collaboration process, but Matt’s a good friend and he’s a songwriter that knows how to write something that’s a bit different. The results are very impressive; “King Bennie had his Shit Together”, a fictionalised take on the life of Hawaiian steel guitarist King Bennie Nawahi, set against a backdrop of a jazzy bluegrass shuffle, tells an interesting story, cleverly pulling the listener into the first-person narrative of the tales of an old musician.

You can find historical musical references dotted throughout the album; the opener “Dimes” is a bit of fun that hints at Little Feat, “Bad Omen” and “6 Skeletons in a Car” (not as gruesome as it sounds) both have a brooding, menacing Southern groove feel while “I Just Get Lost” jumps into a chorus that strongly echoes The Beatles’ “Revolution”. You get the picture; there’s a lot of variety and you never quite know what’s round the next corner.

“Gone, Long Gone” is an album for people that want to actually listen to music, rather than passive consumers; the quality of the songwriting, playing and arrangement deserves much more than that. It’s out now on Black Hen Music (BHCD0096).

Here’s the official video for the album’s opener, “Dimes”:

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