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Steve Dawson and Diane Christiansen have been performing, writing, and recording together for well over two decades. They’ve performed to capacity audiences and critical raves all over the U.S. and Europe as a duo, and with their band, Dolly Varden.
“It’s a gift to be able to do this,” says Christiansen when asked how the couple manages to navigate the sometimes tense mix of creativity and marriage. “I couldn’t imagine life any other way,” echoes Dawson. “We’ve been singing together since the day we met.”
In 1988 Dawson and Christiansen were asked by a mutual friend to add background vocals to a recording. Though they’d never met, they noticed that their voices effortlessly harmonized. Soon they were inseparable singing partners, and in 1990 they became husband and wife as well. In the early 90’s they co-led Stump The Host, a twangy rock band that packed Chicago area clubs. Then, in 1995, as the couple’s singing and songwriting found new depth and maturity, Stump The Host transformed into Dolly Varden, a new band named after an elusive species of trout. Dolly Varden has released six critically acclaimed albums in the United States and Europe and Dawson and Christiansen released an album of intimate duets in 2003 that has become a fan favorite. In addition, Dawson has released two solo albums and an album with an ensemble of Chicago free jazz luminaries called, Funeral Bonsai Wedding. In 2020 Dawson will release, “Last Flight Out,” with Funeral Bonsai Wedding, featuring the Quartet Parapluie string quartet.
Christiansen is also a renowned visual artist and animator who’s works have been shown in galleries and museums all over the United States. Dawson has been teaching very popular and inspiring songwriting classes at the Old Town School of Music since 2008 and co-wrote a book with Mark Caro called, “Take It To The Bridge: Unlocking The Great Songs Inside You,” in 2016.
Dolly Varden has been making music for almost two decades but its latest release explores how quickly that time has passed. The band is built around the heartfelt singing and songwriting of husband and wife Steve Dawson and Diane Christiansen, the melodic and soulful guitar and lap steel playing of Mark Balletto, and the solid rhythm section of Matt Thobe on drums and Mike Bradburn on bass. Remarkably the line-up has stayed the same through 18 years, six critically-acclaimed albums, and well-received shows all over the USA and Europe.
Chris Rawlins is a folk and roots influenced singer-songwriter based in Chicago, IL distinguished by vivid lyrics, rich vocals and unique finger-style guitar playing. A native of the Midwestern United States, he draws from his upbringing in scenes both urban and rural to create a surreal, yet honest and relatable world for his songs to inhabit. An equal background in jazz and american folk music is evident in his surprising melodic turns and chord phrasing. After years spent honing his craft in Chicago’s folk and singer-songwriter circles, his debut album, “Bring on the Rain” released February 8th, 2019.
“You can tell, that as a listener you are in the hands of a precise, unnerving descriptor… Listen carefully, look out for the detail, let the words soothe or screech at you, and let the music amaze you… surreal and thought-provoking.” (Americana UK)
“Bring on the Rain is technically sound, showing a musician with years of practice and training. More so, it is artistically adept — the album is the work of a soulful creator who is only beginning a promising career. Rawlins’ first album is timeless, genre-bending and beautiful. No doubt Rawlins’ will strum the heartstrings of listeners, and become an industry name in no time.” (Divide and Conquer Music)