Dawes | Nothing is Wrong (Ato Records/Red) (Review) 7.11.11

Taylor Goldsmith and the gang perfect and fine-tune their sound, not to mention the art of analog recording.

It’s always comforting to hear a new album by one of your favorite bands that has carved its own niche, even if it is a twist on something that’s been done since the 1970s in the Laurel Canyon. But it’s even more exciting when you can hear the band’s progress and maturation. Dawes’ Nothing is Wrong is an album steeped in progress all while retaining the band’s vintage North Hills sound. Nothing is Wrong presents the idea that true American rock and roll is still alive, but hard to imitate. Never mind that Dawes often garners comparisons to Jackson Browne (who lent some of his talent to this album) and links to The Band (backed by Dawes, at Robbie Robertson’s request, for his 2011 album). Taylor Goldsmith and the gang perfect and fine-tune their sound, not to mention the art of analog recording.

The slight guitar dissonance that opens the record on “Time Spent in Los Angeles” could be seen as a kind of theme carried through the album—discord and bittersweet melancholy. Goldsmith sings of a love lost and dares the listener to sing along. You can picture yourself screaming out, “ ‘Cause you got that special kind of sadness, you got that tragic set of charms,” in your 1974 Impala while the sun floods your field of vision as you roll down the Pacific Coast Highway. Try not to play air guitar or organ on your dash while listening to this song.

“My Way Back Home” sounds richly Escovedo-esque and exhibits one of Dawes’ best traits: lush vocal harmonization. Clocking in at 6:26 as the longest track on the album, the song gives its heart away, warmly wrapped in harmonies, piano, and amorous guitar. “Fire Away” finds Taylor Goldsmith crooning, almost howling achingly, “When you need someone to walk away from, when you need someone to let you in,” and reigning in the attention of everyone around him. Each song is carefully crafted and it’s easy to spot the time that went into quality recordings. The songwriting on the album, while straightforward, crafts heartwarming stories. “Moon in the Water” tenderly tells a charming love story in ballad form, the perfect musical setting for the heartfelt parable.

Dawes may seem enigmatic; they are easy to compare to Jackson Browne and 1970s Laurel Canyon vibe, plus a dash of Tom Petty here and a spark of Alejandro Escovedo there, but somehow they remain a unique and original act. The quartet upped the ante for analog recording and they have showed such maturation on Nothing is Wrong that they are well on their way to being one of America’s most respected and hardworking bands. B | Jenn Metzler

RIYL: Jackson Browne, Tom Petty, Alejandro Escovedo, damn fine American rock.

Originally posted at Playback:STL, July 11, 2011.


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