Steve Dawson We Belong to the Gold Coast

When he isn’t backing up a who’s who of roots music (or producing them), Steve Dawson — one of Canada’s most accomplished string pluckers — occasionally finds time to release a solo album. We Belong to the Gold Coast is a bit of a departure from his debut, Bug Parade, in that along with the folk and rural blues traditions Dawson mines for his dobro tone and finger-style technique, Dawson has dug deeply into his Bob Brozman collections of pre-war Hawaiian music and has also added the pedal steel to his growing arsenal of stringed instruments. Oh, and he’s gone slightly psychedelic on the production, for a folk release at least. Working off that old-meets-new idea, Dawson not only recreates vintage Hawaiian sounds ("We Belong to the Gold Coast,” "Red Sand Serenade”) he updates them with varied instrumentation and subtle ambient sounds. For instance, before "Patches” evolves into a full blown slack key swinging hammock of hula serenade it starts from a series of noises sounding like a steam-powered factory press or perhaps the bedsprings in the next room. This combined with heavily filtered percussion elsewhere on the album and faint backward tape loops make an interesting listen and one that surprisingly doesn’t take away from the many more traditional aspects of the album. The only downside is that this Hawaiian approach isn’t applied to the whole project, making it sound a bit uneven, or at least like a compilation. Dawson’s love of blues certainly makes for some gems, but his update of the Mississippi Sheiks’ "World Gone Wrong” and the ode to Blind Willie Johnson’s wife, "Angeline,” might have found a more suitable home on another album. (Black Hen)