Virtuoso guitar picking is undermined by weak vocals
Steve Dawson’s brand of guitar-centric blues-pop is supported by capable musicianship, especially in regard to Dawson’s nimble fretwork and the fluid keyboards of Chris Gestrin. Dawson’s voice, however, fails to match the virtuosity of the other elements. Tending toward blandness, the vocals have the effect of sucking the life out of whatever song you’re listening to. It’s a shame, because tunes like “Torn and Frayed” and “Gulf Coast Bay” have real verve to them, and with a stronger singer at the helm, they could have been memorable indeed.
Dawson’s voice is better suited to moody numbers like “Darker Still”, in which his lack of range and power are less significant, and backing vocals are used to reinforce the anemic singing. There are good songs here, like “Nightshade”, with its dexterous guitar work, and the banjo-inflected “The Side of the Road”. However, despite the lively and varied sonic menu, the listener can’t help wishing for a vocalist whose dexterity matches that of the instrumentalists.
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// Notes from the Road
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