When Taylor Goldsmith rips into a staccato-laced solo toward the end of “Fire Away” on Dawes’ second LP, Nothing is Wrong, the band emphatically declares their expansion. With more time to write and more attention focused on their efforts this time around, Dawes manages to honor their modern Laurel Canyon country folk by adding moments of increased muscle and bright new flourishes of their striking harmonies inside a wider palette of sound. While “Fire Away” burns with more power in their live show, here the track is more subdued. Working within this template of reverent albums and rocking live shows the band has, for the second consecutive time, created an album that crackles with pristine sound and carries an instantly classic resonance in its powerful intimacy. Even the packaging and gatefold lyric book (in the vinyl version) echo the simple clarity that pulses through this band’s sound.
Nothing Is Wrong kicks off with “Time Spent in Los Angeles” a near perfect slice of quintessential Dawes that aches and echoes the struggle of sustaining relationships while living on the road. Lead singer and songwriter Taylor Goldsmith shines right off the bat, showcasing his uncanny ability to resolve a melody with the best. “My Way Back Home” is the first new example of a Dawes calling card on the new record. Plaintive, majestic and sincere, their ballads display an inherent musical patience. Couple this restraint with a vintage, honest heart and the ability to craft warmly rich hooks and surrender is only natural.
Dawes couldn’t fake it if they tried. It is rare for such a young band, drummer Griffin Goldsmith is 20, to play with such earnest focus and pitch perfect tone. Music seems to float effortlessly from their core. Lyrically, Goldsmith continues to build a reputation as wise beyond his years. Singing in a plaintive call on “My Way Back Home”: If I can place it all together /Make out the nature of the call / I start to feel the love and the silence /That was always at the root of it all.
“Coming Back to a Man” was originally played as a ballad at the tail end of the North Hills tour but now has more of a barnstorming, country feel to it due to punchy drum work. The bounce and timeless harmonies of “How Far We’ve Come” signal a progression for the band. Sounding like the soundtrack to the perfectly sized pool party with cold beers, good people, and great bar-b-que, the song unfolds in such a delightfully ageless way that its catchy phrases, warm piano and buoyant hum simply feel like home. Let out a celebratory sigh as the band sings “The only point of clocks and maps/The only point of looking back/Is to see how far we’ve come”.
“Moon in the Water” strongly suggests Jackson Browne’s 70s singer songwriter style with more gorgeous piano work and a melody that slowly seeps in. It is a track that exemplifies Nothing is Wrong’s ability to foster deeper appreciation after repeated listens. Because the strong songwriting relies on traditional country rock structures but imbues them with such lucid melodic work and incandescent harmonies, some songs only reveal their true power in time. An easy-going playing style is a factor as well. Though their playing doesn’t try to impress with technical flourishes it instead slowly burrows into your pores with nary a note wasted or misplaced.
Dawes’ talents have recently been stamped by two rock legends that tapped the LA youngsters as a backing band for hire. Robbie Robertson asked the four-piece to help him promote How to Become Clairvoyant, his first LP in 20 years and Laurel Canyon-icon Jackson Browne lined them up to support him on an upcoming tour of Spain. Those gigs coupled with an opening slot on Alison Krauss and Union Station’s “comeback” tour, rave reviews from national and underground publications, and a burgeoning reputation as a full throttle live band has Dawes primed to thrive. With Nothing is Wrong’s ability to fire poignant and lasting musical arrows straight from a heart of gold, Dawes signals they are here to stay.