“It’s not gonna be all right // So what are you gonna do about it?” asks Steve Dawson at the beginning of his latest single. The light rhythm and carefully layered instrumentation, along with Dawson’s smooth, melodious vocal, lend the song a certain upbeat nostalgic feeling. However, this contrasts with the strangely uncomfortable images of Dawson leaving his home to sleep in a snow-covered garden and undertaking everyday, menial tasks while wearing various animal heads. Particularly effective is the sight of the burning effigy while his vocal soars higher and Dawson sings of, “The thrill of letting go.” The thoughtful lyrics are heavy with the weight of restless dissatisfaction: “Decades float by // Half-awake, half holding on.” Dawson addresses the fundamental nature of a human life in ‘This Is All There Is’: it may drift and it certainly won’t always be ‘all right’. But there will be laughter and lessons and chances to gain a deeper understanding. This is the nature of a full life and we shouldn’t avoid seeing it for what it is.
The concept for the video was developed with the help of visual artist Diane Christiansen, who made the animal heads with Shoshanna Utchenik, and videographer Jeanne Dunning. Christiansen, Dunning and Dawson had worked together previously on and ‘opera’ installation called ‘Birth Death Breath’ that was exhibited in several American museums, including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. This new collaboration for the trio even features Dunning’s chickens. The end result makes for compelling viewing, leaving us asking questions and reflecting on Dawson’s message.
Dawson shared his thoughts about the song with AUK: “All my life I’ve heard people say,’it’s going to be all right,’ when something terrible happens. It’s meant to be reassuring but it’s always made me question it. Is it really going to be all right? This past year I was one of the hundreds of thousands of people who lost family members to COVID and the loss will never be alright. Life will never be the same. Yet, life will continue. So, how to accept what has happened and continue? The song asks, ‘what are you going to do about it?’ I’m probably talking to myself in this song. The drum intro is taken from one of my all-time favorite recordings, ‘Midnight Train To Georgia’ by Gladys Knight and the Pips, and the intro chords are taken from Al Green’s ‘(Here I Am) Come and Take Me’. Actually as far as recording goes, I’m pretty much always trying to get that early 70s Willie Mitchell / Hi Records sound. Of course, that’s impossible, but I’m always trying. I played Wurlitzer electric piano, guitars, bass, drums, organ and sang all the Gibb-like harmonies on this one.”
‘This Is All There Is’ is taken from the forthcoming, and brilliantly titled, new album, ‘At The Bottom Of A Canyon In The Branches Of a Tree’, which is due for release on 16th July. The album is influenced by a range of genres, journeying through American music much as Steve Dawson has moved across the country physically. Born in California, raised in Idaho and living in Chicago, Dawson took a little folk-rock, a hint of country and a touch of blues and created a sensitive set of songs that move through deep, personal loss followed by artistic rebirth. “I wanted to figure out if I still cared enough about music to keep making it,” Dawson explains. It seems he did. check it out.