Old techniques employed for new album

Steve Dawson is performing at the Errington Hall this Saturday night

Acclaimed Canadian musician Steve Dawson will be performing at the Errington Hall March 29.

Acclaimed Canadian musician Steve Dawson will be performing at the Errington Hall March 29.



Guitar ace Steve Dawson wanted to take an old fashioned approach to his new album and that’s where a vintage microphone rescued from a church in Detroit came into play.

“I’ve been looking for a special microphone for the past couple of years,” said the Vancouver-born musician, producer and sound engineer while on tour last week. “So this guy in L.A., who has his finger on the pulse of microphones, phoned me and said a church in Detroit was getting rid of dusty, old microphones that have been hanging from the rafters for 60 years. So I got one and they are fantastic.”

Dawson recorded his new instrumental album Rattlesnake Cage using a number of old techniques and equipment, in order to create a vibe that was honest and raw, yet inviting and intimate.

Dawson will be doing an acoustic performance with bass player Keith Lowe at the Errington Hall March 29.

Dawson was born and raised in Vancouver, besides a four year stint in Toronto as a child. He took some guitar lessons when he was young but didn’t get really excited about the instrument until he saved up and bought an electric at age 14.

He moved to Boston after graduation to attend Berklee College of Music before returning to become part of Vancouver’s thriving music scene in the early 1990s.

“There was a real happening music scene in Vancouver, quite a bit better than it is now I would say,” said Dawson.

That’s because there was a pile of live music venues where Dawson and other musicians performed regularly, he said. Before too long he had formed a band and hit the road touring. That’s how he met fiddle player Jesse Zubot and the two left the band to embark on a duo project, with Zubot on violin and mandolin and Dawson on acoustic, National steel and Weissenborn Hawaiian guitars.

He said the idea is to try and recreate the vibe he achieved on the new album.

The duo, known as Zubot and Dawson, won the Juno award for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year for a Group, for their album Chicken Scratch, among other awards. In 1995, Dawson founded the Vancouver music label Black Hen Music, where he has produced countless celebrated albums for the likes of Jim Byrnes, Kelly Joe Phelps, and The Sojourners, among others. He continues to work with musicians today in that role.

Dawson has now won a total of seven Junos (five for his work producing) and 15 Western Canadian Music awards.

Last year Dawson and his family decided it was time to make a change and settled on Nashville as a new home base.

“It’s a great time to be there, it’s really booming,” he said. Although he’s been back to Canada to work on his projects eight times since the move, he’s loving the American city for the music, the people and the history.

“A lot of the great records that I love were made within a 200-mile radius from where I live and that’s pretty mind blowing actually,” he said.

Dawson is currently on tour and said the stripped-down approach he’s taking, with no pickups on his guitars, is unlike anything he’s done before.

He said the idea is to try and recreate the vibe he achieved on the new album.

“It’s a new experience in that way, and I’m really enjoying it.”

Dawson will be playing some new and old tunes at the Errington Hall, some blues and Hawaiian music, and he and Lowe will do some improvising along the way.


The show starts at 8 p.m. on March 29.  Tickets $20 at the Errington Store, Cranky Dog Music in Parksville and Heaven on Earth in Qualicum Beach. Youth under 12 are $5 at the door and children under five are free. For more on Dawson visit his website: