On his third solo LP, Find Yourself Lost, Dawson veers toward the fringes of country and western. Although ‘cosmic’ has become catchall descriptor in both country and ambient music, Dawson reaches for something more earthly. Something more grounded. Ribboning miles of pedal steel nestle into hushed tones and gossamer textures. Reflecting on the process he states, “It took some time to find myself in it. The first few pieces I made were embarrassingly twangy. I love spaghetti and I love western but never the two shall twain.” Instead, Dawson began to experiment with alternate tunings and granular guitar. He recorded and mixed a full album, and then called upon a handful of friends and kindred peers to improvise on top of it. Treating their contributions like found sounds or samples he stole little moments, manipulated passages, and dismantled his original recordings in the process.
Although it falls in the middle of the album, the first single, Barn On Fire serves as a bridge between Find Yourself Lost and Dawson’s earlier work. It’s one of only two tracks on the record that doesn’t have guests contributing, save for the swell of a pedal steel in the final seconds. “I recently came across an old photograph.” Dawson says. “In it I’m a shitty, preteen brat mugging for the camera. I’m wearing an oversized knit sweater and plaid pants. To my right is the wallpaper of old west wanted posters that lined our basement. To my left is a modest bookshelf filled with my father’s Louis L’Amour novels. It’s an awkward photo but a perfect summation of my childhood. And perhaps a perfect summation of how I arrived at a Barn On Fire.”
Perhaps it’s not surprising that Dawson was drawn in a country-adjacent direction, he literally grew up adjacent to country. His childhood home was a block from the rodeo grounds in a town where everyone wore cowboy boots to weddings and funerals. Throughout the album he draws from memories of his youth, like time spent on the family farm where John Wayne movies played on an endless loop and a velvet painting of an outlaw with an eyepatch hung above the television.
Find Yourself Lost marks the first time Dawson has been joined by other musicians. He’s a member of the free jazz outfit Peace Flag Ensemble and an avid collaborator, but his own records have been solitarily affairs. “I love the act of collaboration. There’s a joy to be found in responding to someone else’s creativity or ensuring that your ideas serve the greater good.” Dawson notes, “With my own material I’ve been more selfish. Every song is a love note to myself. They are reminders to practice patience, to allow space for growth, to embrace imperfection, and to always remain open to change. But I’d neglected an incredibly important sentiment… You are not alone and it’s okay to ask for help.”
Find Yourself Lost features excerpts of pedal steel by Ettiene Soulodre, flugelhorn by Dalton Lam, additional guitars by Bryce Lewis, dobro by Aaron Kapinka, and baritone guitar by Gage McGuire. It also contains audio from an unlabeled garage sale cassette of someone’s home-dubbed line dancing.