17 January 2011

Unearthed Review: Craig Dawson. Three and a half stars

| johnboy
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Craig Dawson Screenshot

Today with our Unearthed Review hat on we have a listen to the “roots” of Craig Dawson.

There are nearly 700 Canberra bands with tracks on the TripleJUnearthed website. In 2011 we’re going to explore them. (Previous reviews are available)

Today we’re giving a spin to Craig Dawson who, at some length, describes himself thusly:

Craig is a songwriter, music teacher and musician who has performed in bands and as a soloist since 1984. He is best known recently for his partnership with Simone Olding. Craig has written several children’s musicals, performed as a studio musician and released three CD’s and one EP. At the year 2000 Tamworth Country Music Independent Artist’s Recognition Awards (TIARA) Craig won the “best instrumental” section for his solo acoustic guitar tune Pickin’ on The Captain. He has since gained favourable recognition for his songwriting and fingerstyle guitar work in reviews in overseas music magazines and Internet sites in Italy, the United Kingdom and California. Craig has also appeared on a number of community radio programs and the ABC. He is currently recording a solo guitar CD expected to be released in 2006.

Craig is an accomplished guitarist whose playing is influenced heavily by traditional styles such as slack key, slide resonator guitar and delta blues. He is a popular performer at folk festivals around the country and has recently performed at the Sydney Acoustic Guitar Festival. He was also invited to perform as part of the guitar forum at the Cobargo Folk Festival tin 2004 and 2005. Craig frequently conducts well attended workshops in creative guitar techniques.

As a solo act, Craig offers a mixture of original songwriting and instrumentals. Instrumentation includes acoustic guitars in various tunings and the use of a National resonator guitar. Influences are mainly Hawaiian slack key and fingerstyle delta blues.

“Moody folk musings from a musician who understands the less-is-more aesthetic to songwriting. Craig Dawson is a proficient guitar player and Singer-Songwriter. He seems to have grown up with a plethora of good folk music that naturally seeped into his own songs. Dawson’s music is as good as anything that has influenced him.” – Eric S. “www.listen.com”

OK, so a bit of a confession. After Friday’s appalling hip hop I just couldn’t face another electronic or hip hop act. So Craig Dawson came up as the first artist not of those genres from the randomiser. I’ll get back into the aforementioned genres. Just not today.

Craig Dawson is genre identified as “roots” which in Australian musical parlance means “somewhere between folk and country”. Or possibly “Country, but not yet painting my name on my guitar”.


High Water Risin’ Part 2:

With influences like Leonard Cohen and a shout out to Konrad Lenz it’s not surprising there’s a deep growling vocal at work here.

But where Cohen and Lenz are lyrically based with the music almost as an afterthought it’s clear that Craig Dawson writes his music first. (Konrad has waited his whole life to have his name used in the same sentence as Leonard Cohen like that)

That’s not a criticism, but it means that while there are superficial similarities the songs are very different.

High Water Risin’ starts as a very basic blues song. The sort of thing people can make up and belt out from scratch around a backyard party fire.

But as it progresses it becomes musically much more complex.

Let the lyric work in the background and listen to the underlying music and you’ll like it.

Pickin On The Captain:

An intricate guitar instrumental, pleasant enough to listen to.

Saddle Up My Pony:

Far and away the strongest of the three songs. An epic ballad at over five and a half minutes,

Instead of growling Dawson reveals a more tenor-like voice with a beautiful sense of vulnerability to it while the music remains as clever and complex as the first two tracks.


If you like your country roots music stripped back and toned down then you’re probably going to like Craig Dawson a lot.

Three and a half stars.

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Praise the Lord! A musician and a musical style I think I can listen to. Johnboy, please feel free to bias your randomizer in this direction any time you like.

I thought that first sentence in the article was a bit suss when I first read it tho’. Listening to someone’s roots sounds like what might happen in a room in Fyshwick. Unintentional, I’m sure …:-)

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