By David Werther.
Dawes, Stories Don’t End (HUB Records, 2013)
The divide between musical heirs and imitators is deep and wide. Imitators are actors trying to convince the audience, if only for a moment, that they are the musical heroes whom they and their audience love. The best or worst of these, depending upon your preferences, are bands that go on the road giving audiences an experience that would otherwise be out of reach, an evening with the Beatles or a Grateful Dead show. Perfect imitation requires a lot of talent, but by intention freezes a musical tradition. Heirs, on the other hand, strive to develop a tradition, combining its elements in new ways that produce synergies all their own.
Dawes is an heir to the Laurel Canyon music of the late 60s and early 70s. Think Jackson Browne, the Eagles and CSN. Dawes’ songwriter Taylor Goldsmith’s musical palette tends toward the somber tones, but the band is also capable of kick starting a song (“From the Right Angle”), sounding not much like Laurel Canyon, but a lot like the Stones. Goldsmith’s lyrics look at the psychological and perceptual divide between the ways we project ourselves and what lies underneath (“Just Below the Surface”), as well as our inability to understand ourselves (“Something in Common”) and others (“Most People”). Dawes brings a lot of talent to the table, and while some of the original Laurel Canyon artists run the risk of imitating their younger selves, freezing rather than freeing the musical tradition they work in, Dawes takes it new places. That Dawes are true heirs, neither pretenders nor imitators, became evident this spring when Bob Dylan asked the band to open his shows, the rock equivalent of knighthood.