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Sleepy old blues greats collaborate

Of the four musicians coming to Whitehorse to play the Fathers and Sons gig, only one was willing to wake up at 9:30 a.m. to talk.

Of the four musicians coming to Whitehorse to play the Fathers and Sons gig, only one was willing to wake up at 9:30 a.m. to talk.

“I don’t know who I can find to talk to you that early,” said their manager Kathy Campbell.

Vancouver actor, and St. Louis blues legend Jim Byrnes was sleeping.

So was Amos Garrett, the telecaster king who’s played with the likes of Steve Wonder, Paul Butterfield, Bonnie Raitt, Anne Murray and Maria Muldaur.

Vancouver Island composer and dobro player Doug Cox, whose music has appeared on numerous soundtracks, including Terry Gilliam’s Tideland, was, presumably, snoring soundly, as well.

But Steve Dawson was awake.

It’s not that early, said the multi-instrumental Vancouverite.

Dawson is one of the sons — the fathers, Amos and Brynes are the old guys.

But the tour’s name has a bit more depth.

“It’s named after a Muddy Waters album from the 1960s,” said Dawson.

“The elder statesman Muddy Waters was playing with all these younger Chicago blues guys.”

Cox and Dawson had done a 12-day slide-guitar tour last year, and decided to do another one picking up the “fathers” they’d been playing with.

“I had been working with Jim Byrnes and Cox had been working with Amos,” said Dawson.

“So we decided to do this one-off tour.”

However, being successful, independent musicians, they didn’t have much time to prepare.

“It kind of fell together by accident,” said Dawson.

Arriving the night before their first gig, the guys got together and started “pulling out tunes.

“Then we whittled it down, and cut out the stuff that was too finicky,” said Dawson.

“We found stuff we could fall into naturally.”

It was similar to workshops where a bunch of musicians are thrown together at folk festivals, he added.

The newness of the material gave the first shows a sense of immediacy.

Nine nights later, resting up before a second show in Penticton, the guys have gotten to know the material — it’s tight and rehearsed.

But there’s something special about playing fresh material too, said Dawson.

Although they’re all guitarists, the blues artists mix it up on stage.

“It’s not all four of us all the time,” he said.

And the guitar styles vary — Byrnes plays the acoustic guitar, Garrett strums electric and sings basslines, Cox plays dobro and mandolin and Dawson plays pedal steel and Hawaiian.

But it’s not all leis and hula dancing.

Dawson is into 1920 to ‘40s Hawaiian “which has more in common with the jazz era than music we associate with Hawaiian now — it’s like hearing Django Rhinehart playing euro-jazz,” he said.

Dawson picked up the guitar in high school, playing standard rock covers of Cream, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton.

“Then I found myself leaning toward the people that influenced those guys,” he said.

He ended up right back in the 1920s, at the beginning of recorded music.

Now, he’s recording his own. Dawson put out two albums this year.

“They’re two albums with the same band, but with two very different concepts,” he said. One is singer/songwriter based, while the other is a series of instrumental pedal steel tunes —  an instrument he’s just learning.

All four musicians have been north before.

“I know lots of the musicians and have worked with Kim Barlow,” said Dawson, who’s played a couple of Frostbite Music Festivals.

This time, despite all the sleeping, the fathers and sons will be tired.

They’ve been playing a show every night on the Western Canadian tour and Whitehorse will be night 11 of 12.

“There’s been a real curve, with learning the material,” said Dawson.

“And sitting next to Amos Garrett every night has been a real trip. He’s legendary — no one else plays like that.”

Fathers and Sons hit the Yukon Arts Centre stage at 8 p.m. on November 29th.

Tickets are available at the arts centre box office and Arts Underground.

Contact Genesee Keevil at