The music of Dawson Cowals has been described as "Dave Matthews sings Rich Mullins songs accompanied by James Taylor on the guitar." (musicscene.com) It is this combination of driving acoustic rhythms, falsetto vocals, and poignant lyrics that have caught and held the ears of his many listeners. As Sue Braiden of CBC Radio described it:
"Dawson Cowals has a haunting voice that demands your ear. An artist who can indeed stand "unplugged," Cowals offers a beautiful array of acoustic scores with an unapologetic social conscience. It works. Faith meets fire and speaks to what is missing in the emptiness of many other works. A polished artist with a bright, shiny soul."
But even if others try to paint him as having a shiny soul Dawson never takes a finger-pointing, holier-than-thou attitude. Rather, in listening you will find that he is not afraid to humbly display some of the tarnish and rough edges as in "Restore My Soul":
So often I find / This law at work within me / That what I want to do / That I don't do at all / And what I don't want to do / That I keep repeating / Sweet Jesus won't you come / Restore my soul
Where he laments his mistakes and the continual need for grace and redemption. This kind of self-examination is hard to find in today's collection of cotton candy pop, which promises sweet fulfillment but leaves one empty with nothing but sticky fingers. Dawson's refreshing approach of taking an honest look in the mirror gives one pause to reflect on one's own motivations. He opens a brief window into the journey of his life and shares his sorrows and struggles as well as his hopes and joys.
His introspective lyrics are woven through modern folk-rock licks with a blend of soft jazz, funk, and acoustic noodlin' that challenges the ear and the tapping foot to keep up. And the mind isn't forgotten on the side of the road to fend for itself. Borrowing often nearly word for word from scripture Dawson's lyrics cover a wide range of topics from grace in the song "Skeletons in My Closet" to dealing with personal tragedy and the grief of losing a loved one in the poignant "When We Have Faces". His songs focus on topics relevant to both Christians and non-Christians alike; ministering to the body of believers and holding out the truth and hope of the gospel to those who are searching.
As Dawson explains in his own words, "I try to share the truth of the love and forgiveness I have found in Jesus Christ without turning to some of the clichéed 'Christianese' expressions that so often seem to be found in Christian music. People need to hear the truth of how God wants to meet them where they are at without being bombarded with spiritual platitudes that do little to fill their need. After all, Jesus did not speak as the Pharisees and expect the people to want to come to him. He spoke in everyday language and ministered to their needs while they were still living their old lifestyles. He didn't wait for them to clean up their act and come into the temple before he would speak with them. And that is the approach I strive to take in my music. I try to share where I'm at in my own life and some of the things God has brought me through or taught me, and hope that others can relate in a more personal way than if I was up on a soapbox. My hope and prayer is that I can get out of the way enough so that if God wants to speak to someone through my music, He can."
If you are tired of the same old, dried-up, relationship angst that is always tearing others down, be prepared for some soul searching and a refreshing glimpse of truth. Zach Garland offers this summary, calling Dawson's music:
"Nice jazzy rock, with very creative lyrics; a message that doesn't hit you over the head. Dawson honors his God and shares the happiness he feels without insulting a non-Christian's intelligence. He's just got something cool he wants to share. Take note gang. Make music this good, and non-Christians will listen. Take it to the river; don't keep it in the church."
Dawson has been writing music for over 14 years and has a total of 10 full-length CDs containing over 130 unique songs between them. Some of the more recent recordings include his modern Christmas collection featuring the smash-hit title track, "Born Is the King"; his full-length studio recording "Don't Look Back" with songs like "Green", "Seraph's Wings", and "Without You"; an all-acoustic collection of new and older favorites called "Unplugged" with songs such as "I'm Not That Strong" and "Sticks & Stones"; to the most recent live concert release, "Live at the Solid Rock Cafe 10.12.2001", with 17 songs for a play time of almost 80 minutes!
Besides writing and performing the songs on this CD, Dawson also did the graphic design work for the packaging. When he isn't busy singing he also does design work for many other artists from the Pacific Northwest to Australia. "Don't Look Back" features a 12 page full-color lyric booklet that includes both the lyrics to the songs and stories behind the writing of each.
Dawson has played in small coffee shop venues and for outdoor amphitheatre crowds of thousands, but wherever you hear him you will come away feeling that you had the chance to share an incredible evening of acoustic storytelling with a from-the-heart performer. For a complete history, biography, discography and more please visit Dawson's official site on the web: http://www.dawsoncowals.com