Steve Dawson's Funeral Bonsai Wedding, Rock Falls | Constellation | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader
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Steve Dawson's Funeral Bonsai Wedding, Rock Falls 

When: Fri., Sept. 12, 9:30 p.m. 2014
Price: $12
These days Chicago singer-songwriter Steve Dawson is best known for his band Dolly Varden and his solo endeavors, but over the past decade or so he’s collaborated sporadically with three of the strongest players on Chicago’s improvised-music scene—vibist Jason Adasiewicz, drummer Frank Rosaly, and bassist Jason Roebke (Dawson worked with Adasiewicz and Rosaly at Jazz Record Mart in the early aughts). They never played together on a whole record, though, or coalesced into a band with its own identity—not till earlier this year, when they became Funeral Bonsai Wedding. The group’s new self-released, self-titled debut album feels loose and open, and while it’s definitely pop—a hybrid of country, soul, and folk rock—Dawson occasionally takes advantage of that freewheeling vibe to embark upon extended narratives, fortified by Adasiewicz’s bottomless supply of melodic filigree. On the album’s opener, the discursive, meditative “Ezra Pound and the Big Wood River,” he mixes memories of growing up in Hailey, Idaho (smashing fish called “slimeheads” on rocks along the bank of the titular river, getting high and spying on a young Mariel Hemingway in a posh swimming pool), with thoughts about Ezra Pound and Ernest Hemingway, who both spent some time living in the area. The profusion of detailed verses summons the spirit of Bob Dylan, and Dawson’s soulful wail clearly borrows from Van Morrison. On the hard-driving “Anywhere You Landed,” which Adasiewicz colors with hammered, ringing harmonies, Dawson vents his frustration with an indecisive person who’s squandered opportunities and relationships, while on “Confusion,” which combines the groove of a vintage Stax hit with glassy, shimmering tones from bowed vibraphone keys, the narrator prefers to stay in limbo rather than face an ugly truth. Dawson hasn’t changed his writing style for his bandmates, but they give him plenty of room to experiment within it. —Peter Margasak

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