Release Date: Jun 7, 2011
Record label: ATO
Dawes are steeped in rock tradition, whether backing Robbie Robertson live or working on their own: "Fire Away," from their second album, sounds like a lost B side from Jackson Browne (and features Browne himself on backing vocals). The arrangements are all vintage, the guitar leads hot, and fraternal harmonies of drummer Griffin and leader Taylor Goldsmith are gorgeous even when the lyrics strain ("Time Spent in Los Angeles" plays like a dubious come-on to a lady circa 1973). Taylor's current side project, Middle Brother, shows his wilder, less studied side; this tuneful but sometimes bland set could use more of that.
The men of Dawes have certainly grown up since their debut album was released just two short years ago. After letting North Hills out into the world, the band hit the road for near-continuous touring. Forced to write in the short amount of free time they were afforded, the songs on Nothing is Wrong are marked by the distinct qualities of a band in motion.
Pretty much everything today is derivative - we just have to deal with it. So sure, you’re going to put on the new Dawes album and say, “golly, this sounds a lot like Jackson Browne and the whole Laurel Canyon bunch circa 1970-whatever”, and you’d be right. Well I don’t know about you, but I have something in my dna that responds to a well constructed song; I just can’t help it.
Painting their own version of heartland rock & roll with broad, unhurried strokes, Dawes continue carrying the torch of L.A.’s country-rock community -- once dominated by the likes of Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman, and Neil Young -- on their second album. Nothing Is Wrong picks up where North Hills left off, mixing the band’s midtempo songwriting with dusty handfuls of pedal steel, organ, and imperfect harmonies. The music may owe as much to the American South as California, but Los Angeles figures heavily in the band’s leisurely pace, which picks up at key moments but rarely moves beyond a casual clop.
True to its name, there's nothing particularly wrong with Laurel Canyon quartet Dawes' second album. The foursome thread enough Neil Young-isms into their songs to fill a thousands Harvests, the 11 tracks here spilling over with bluesy piano bursts and sumptuous vocal harmonies, a crunchy thrum of electric guitar ever-present. No, nothing is amiss or even slightly askew about the Californian group's return – and perhaps that's the problem.
Native sons of Southern California, the boys of Dawes have carved themselves a niche in contemporary roots rock by recreating and updating (but just barely) the classic folk-rock sounds of ‘70s Los Angeles. The band’s 2009 debut, North Hills, earned them kudos from both contemporary audiences and fans of old-school AOR. So seamlessly authentic is their retro-cred that they were chosen by both Robbie Robertson and Jackson Browne as respective backing bands for several 2010/11 concert and television appearances.