When a band is labeled as a throwback, it could be a blessing or a curse. On one hand, it means that you understand the history and foundation of where great music is made and are honoring that tradition. Contrarily, it could mean that you haven’t adapted with the times and sound old. Fortunately in the case of laidback Los Angeles based folk rockers Dawes, it’s the former rather than the latter that holds true.
As we outlined in our review of their latest album, Stories Don’t End, the group has grown by leaps and bounds. Perhaps it was leaving the friendly confines of Southern California that caused them to evolve from their Laurel Canyon-inspired sound, but no matter the case, the result showed how good the band can be if they’re willing to mix things up a bit.
For Dawes, being engrained in the Laurel Canyon sound has defined them since their inception. Formed in 2009 from the ashes of Simon Dawes after the departure of co-songwriter Blake Mills, the group dropped the Simon and started writing new tunes. At the behest of producer and close friend Jonathan Wilson, who is known for working with groups within the same genre as they, the quartet joined an informal jam session with fellow folk/Americana rockers like Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes fame, Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes and Benmont Tench of The Heartbreakers. From there, the group was inspired to record their debut North Hills in the same setting and the result was a critically acclaimed work that won them fans throughout the music world.
It wasn’t until Nothing Is Wrong, the group’s second album, when the public started catching to what was brewing in Los Angeles. The group’s throwback sound had caught on and even with the departure of keyboardist Alex Casnoff, Dawes seemed headed for heights that they couldn’t have expected. Taylor Goldsmith’s observant, detailed songwriting along with the band’s mix of folk and Americana struck a chord and soon, they were co-headlining shows throughout the States with Blitzen Trapper.
Even during their time off from heavy touring in 2012, the group has managed to find themselves intertwined within their respective scene. Last June, they served as the house band for Glen Campbell’s final show/tribute in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Bowl, playing behind the likes of Jackson Browne, Kris Kristofferson, Lucinda Williams, Jenny Lewis and Courtney Taylor-Taylor of Dandy Warhols. It’s not easy to play behind one of these talents singers, but all? Piece of cake. It also shows how highly they are thought of by both their peers and their seniors in their genre.
In the midst of opening for Bob Dylan, things are going to be busy for Dawes. They’re currently on a lengthy tour that will see them tour across North America and UK until September, proving again that it doesn’t matter if music sounds old or new, the only thing that counts is if it’s good. Thankfully Dawes has mastered that.
Photo: Noah Abrams