Steve Dawson

Rattlesnake Cage

Black Hen

dawsonThis is Canadian guitarist/producer/record-label head Steve Dawson’s second instrumental release, the first being 2008’s “Telescope,” which was the result of a grant to study pedal steel guitar under L.A. session man Greg Leisz. “Rattlesnake,” however, is strictly acoustic.

The album was recorded between tours and production work during the latter half of 2013. There were no overdubs or effects: just some fingers, slides and four guitars (a Larrivée Jumbo, Michael Dunn-built Weissenborn, National Tricone and Taylor 12-string) stuck in front of a Neuman M49 mic rescued after 50 years from a Detroit church.

There are shades of Reverend Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, John Fahey, Taj Mahal, Ry Cooder, Leo Kottke, Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Rose in the 11 original compositions. Ragtime, fingerstyle, slide, gospel, resophonic, country — all manner of old-time guitar is here, recorded and mastered oh so well for optimum enjoyment.

A few of the tunes even have that authentic speed-up/slow-down thing, where the music sounds like a 33⅓ LP perfectly sped up to 45 or 78 rpm and then brought back to normal.

Slide fans will take special note of “Flophouse Oratory,” the title cut, “Butterfly Stunt,”  the interestingly titled “While the West Was Won, the Earth Didn’t Know It” and “Chunky.”gnm_end_bug

1. Blind Thomas At The Crime Scene
2. Flophouse Oratory
3. The Medicine Show Comes To Avalon
4. Rattlesnake Cage
5. Lighthouse Avenue
6. Butterfly Stunt
7. While The West Was Won, The Earth Didn’t Know It
8. J.R. Lockley’s Dilemna
9. The Flagpole Skater Laughs From Above
10. Chunky
11. The Altar At Center Raven

Total time: 41:26

External links
artist’s website
iTunes Store

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Joe Goldmark

The Wham of That Steel Man!


Joe Goldmark is the keeper of the instrumental pedal steel guitar flame. On his last album, 2007’s “Seducing the ’60s,” he branched out by including guest vocalists on half the songs. Now, for his ninth solo album (he also was a member of Jim Campilongo and the 10 Gallon Cats as well as the Twangbangers), he branches out further with a double album — a vocal disc and an instrumental disc.

The vocal disc features Keta Bill. “I’ve known Keta for about 20 years,” Goldmark told Good New Music by e-mail. “She’s (music critic) Joel Selvin’s ex-wife. She was in (’80s R&B big band) the Zasu Pitts Memorial Orchestra and (ZPMO’s later incarnation) Big Bang Beat. … I wanted a rock-and-roll singer rather than a jazz or country singer for this album. (Guitarist) Gary Potterton and I supply the country sounds.”

As on prior outings, Goldmark displays his penchant for covering classic rock numbers. On the vocal disc, he covers Creedence Clearwater Revival, Buffalo Springfield, Bobby Fuller, the Beach Boys, George Harrison, Bob Dylan and Blind Faith, among others. He also throws in tracks of more recent vintage by Jeff Buckley, Teenage Fanclub and Dr. Dog.

The lion’s share of the instrumental disc, by comparison, is made up of Goldmark originals. The rest is covers of the Beatles, Dmitri Tiomkin, Burt Bacharach, and Dave and Ansel Collins.

Goldmark’s résumé explains his impressive musical taste — he’s an avid record collector with a website containing an LP label guide, LP price guides and an album cover gallery. He’s also a partner in San Francisco record shop Amoeba Music.

For a change of pace, he plays lap steel on “Long As I Can See the Light” and Dobro on “Can’t Find My Way Home.” Supporting musicians add fiddle to “Caroline No,” “Glass Beach” and “Tsunami,” and horns to “Long As I Can See the Light,” “Guns of Navarone” and Goldmark originals  “The Ska’s the Limit” and “Zanzibar.”

Best song on the album: “Sexy Sadie,” featuring John McFee (Clover, the Doobie Brothers) on slide guitar.


1. Long As I Can See The Light
2. On The Way Home
3. Let Her Dance
4. Caroline No
5. I Don’t Want Control Of You
6. Beware Of Darkness
7. Most Likely You Go Your Way
8. Lover, You Should’ve Come Over
9. We’ll Meet Again
10. Ain’t It Strange
11. Can’t Find My Way Home

1. The High Road
2. Palomino
3. The Ska’s The Limit
4. Riptide Rock
5. Sexy Sadie
6. Zanzibar
7. Glass Beach
8. Guns Of Navarone
9. Any Day Now
10. Dede’s Delight
11. Pasta Puttanesca
12. Double Barrel
13. Tsunami

Total time: 1:14:11

External links
artist’s website
iTunes Store

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Ancient Future

World Without Walls


San Francisco Bay Area-based Ancient Future was all about “world fusion” before world music was even a genre. To honor the band’s reunion this summer after a 15-year performance hiatus, Capitol/EMI is giving their fifth and most accessible disc its first digital release.

Violinist Jim Hurley came on board for this long-out-of-print 1990 outing, joining the core group of guitarist Matthew Montfort, keyboardist Doug McKeehan and percussionist Ian Dogole and remaining as a member for the rest of the group’s seven studio albums. Tabla player extraordinaire Zakir Hussain was recruited for three songs, and the record also is an early engineering/production credit for alternative pedal steeler Bruce Kaphan (who, alas, only plays shaker here).

Several exotic instruments spice up this instrumental stew, including electric violin and synthesized thumb piano (“Dance of the Rain Forest”), steel drums (“April Air”), and Balinese gamelan and Chinese flute (“Nyo Nyo Gde”).

Other highlights are “Lakshmi Rocks Me,” a tribute to south Indian violinist L. Shankar; “End of the Beginning,” a mashup of ancient Celtic and Indian influences; “Turkish Taffy,” boasting a triple-lead attack comprising guitar, piano and acoustic violin; “Indra’s Net,” inspired by Hindu mythology and featured in the soundtrack for the drift-net fishing documentary “Closing the Curtains of Death”; and “Gopi Song,” a tip of the hat to Pandit Ram, master of a north Indian bowed string instrument called the sarangi.

1. Lakshmi Rocks Me
2. Dance Of The Rain Forest
3. April Air
4. 14 Steps
5. End Of The Beginning
6. Turkish Taffy
7. Alap
8. Indra’s Net
9. Nyo Nyo Gde
10. Gopi Song

Total time: 44:02

External links
artist’s website
iTunes Store

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James Elkington & Nathan Salsburg


Tompkins Square

With the exception of a fiddle here and some bass there, two acoustic guitars are all one gets with this gem of an album (vinyl and download only) — but that’s plenty.

It’s a meeting of the intercontinental minds: Elkington, a British transplant living in Chicago the past 10 years, and Salsburg, who returned to his hometown of Louisville a few years back after a stint in New York.

Elkington was leader of The Zincs before starting The Horse’s Ha with Freakwater’s Janet Bean, and maintains a solo career. Salsburg is an archivist and producer for the Alan Lomax Archive; curator of the Twos & Fews vernacular-music imprint on Drag City Records; and host of the “Root Hog or Die” program on East Village Radio.

Combining British and rural American guitar traditions, “Avos” (a Russian word for the confident approach to new situations, and the faith that nothing tragic will occur once in them) draws comparisons not only to “American primitive”-style performers such as John Fahey, Leo Kottke, Peter Lang, Robbie Basho and Jack Rose, but also to British folk guitarists such as John Renbourn, Bert Jansch and Davey Graham.

Fortunately, Elkington and Salsburg’s simpatico relationship doesn’t result in a tribute to their common heroes; rather, it combines bits and pieces of their influences into a wildly fresh instrumental concoction that must be heard to be believed.

For the obsessives: Elkington uses a Martin 000-1 and a Rodriguez classical guitar, while Salsburg plays a Guild D4 and a Bourgeois JOM-V.

1. Hospitality
2. A Free Amft
3. Sedentary Song
4. Fez And Guinness
5. Romany Belle
6. Marjoram
7. Avos
8. Believer Field
9. The Blurring Cogs
10. Trois Poires
11. Straight Up And Down
12. The Queue Outside The Night Ministry
13. Scarborough Fore And Aft

Total time: 35:23

External links
Nathan Salsburg’s blog
Tompkins Square’s ‘Avos’ page
iTunes Store

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Ben Hall

Ben Hall!

Tompkins Square

hall-bNashville-via-Mississippi thumbpicker Hall was brought to the Tompkins Square label by the late Charlie Louvin, who stumbled across him thanks to a casual stop by Hall at the Louvin Brothers Museum in Monteagle, Tenn.

Already established as a serious player and with several awards in hand, Hall hadn’t really considered a professional career. After backing up Louvin on several Tompkins Square releases, the label set him up to record his debut at Cowboy Technical Services, the workshop-style NYC studio co-owned by Eric “Roscoe” Ambel (former guitarist with Joan Jett, the Del Lords, the Yayhoos and Steve Earle).

Ambel told Good New Music by e-mail that he had no previous connection with Hall or with Tompkins Square founder Josh Rosenthal, saying simply, “I have built a reputation on making straightforward ‘performance-based’ records.”

Rosenthal, also reached by e-mail, corroborated, saying that Ambel had “great gear, a great track record, and I wanted to record in New York because Ben is so busy as a student in Nashville that it’s hard to pin him down.”

Hall, 22, is studying music at Belmont University. Besides playing on Louvin’s “Sings Murder Ballads and Disaster Songs,” “Hickory Wind: Live at the Gram Parsons Guitar Pull, Waycross, GA” and “The Battle Rages On,” he also supported Kurt Wagner (Lambchop) and Cortney Tidwell on their collaboration under the name Kort, “Invariable Heartache.”

“Ben Hall!” is an easygoing, mostly instrumental collection (he sings tenor on two Merle Travis numbers, “Guitar Rag” and “Sweet Temptation”) that pays tribute to Travis and Chet Atkins, accompanied only by drums and bass. But more than just emulating classic albums by his heroes, he picks a few unusual songs to cover that fit right in after being given the Hall treatment, such as Roger Miller’s “King of the Road” and the Louvin Brothers’ “Every Time You Leave.”gnm_end_bug

1. Cannonball Rag
2. Guitar Rag
3. Alabama Jubilee
4. Mimi & Me
5. Windy & Warm
6. Lover, Come Back To Me
7. There’ll Be Some Changes Made
8. Sweet Temptation
9. Oklahoma Hills
10. King Of The Road
11. Every Time You Leave

Total time: 30:32

External links
artist’s website
iTunes Store

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