Dawson ignites retro-roots fire

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Ronnie Dawson doesn't perform an archival art; he just plays a foot-stompin', leg-shakin' music powered by chicken-scratch guitars and straightforward drum beats. Calling it rockabilly is just attaching a name to a good time. At nearly 60 years old, Dawson is too young to fade away and too old to transform his act into anything other than the fiery, roots-fueled party engine that tears up clubs wherever he goes.

Orlando Weekly: How much are you touring in a year?

Ronnie Dawson: Probably 120 dates for the last two or three years. It's weird. We can go and play and have really over-the-top crowds and go 200 miles down the road and have a bunch of people that never heard of us before. We're trying to pick up a few more record buyers, a few more people to put in the seats so we can keep touring. At this point we're breaking even ... barely.

For the touring band are there keyboards or just rhythm guitar?

No keyboards. We burn those. (Chuckles.) Just drums, two guitars and a stand-up bass.

Do you consider this new album ("More Bad Habits") and tour as reviving your career?

It's a basic step ahead in the career. The way I look at it is like chapters untold. When I started to get some attention overseas in the '80s, then it started to make sense to me. [Before that] the rootsy thing had been suspended and I really didn't have any hits. I didn't do anything for about eight, nine years there. In the early '60s ... I was living in Fort Worth and actually had started school at TCU and was going to try to do something -- you know, in case the music thing didn't work.

This is your first studio album in a while, isn't it? Before that you released a lot of live stuff.

When you say "live," that's how I cut anyway. I record live in the studio. We have one live album that we did last year, in Austin, Texas, at the Continental Club. The others were all basically for the European market.

The new CD does have power, but it's lean at the same time. It's a gorgeous sound, from my standpoint.

Well, thank you. Maybe we accomplished what we set out to do. We didn't want to go too far where we would lose a lot of the purist fans. We will [lose a few] I'm sure, because some of them are just -- they're very, very critical when it comes to those things. But there's just not enough of them out there. I'm not very interested anyway in just making a record for one particular audience. You should try to expand your audience and improve as you go along. That's the way I was brought up.

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