- Nothing Is Wrong
In 2009, Dawes released their debut album, North Hills. Before I was even done listening to that album’s opening track, I was completely floored and convinced that the tortured soul of Richard Manual was still alive in Dawes’ young frontman Taylor Goldsmith. The album simply blew me away. After a masterpiece debut like that, I have been anxiously awaiting the release of a new album everyday for the past two years. Despite my sky-high expectations, Dawes managed to meet and surpass them with Nothing Is Wrong.
Nothing Is Wrong may lack one song as instantly lovable as “When My Time Comes” from Dawes’ debut album, but it is full of one terrific song after another and showcases the band’s musical and lyrical growth. In a web interview Dawes released to promote the new release, Taylor Goldsmith explains that the central difference between the two albums for him personally is that he’s learned how to play lead guitar. From the first notes of the album-opening “Time Spent In Los Angeles,” Taylor’s guitar is much more upfront than it was on North Hills. Whereas North Hills was an album mostly dominated by pleasant folk rock, with Nothing Is Wrong, Dawes has grown into a full-fledged rock and roll band. More than anything, this transition seems to have been spurred by the band’s constant touring since the release of North Hills, and is a product of the entire band becoming more comfortable with both their instruments and with each other.
Calling Dawes a transformed band may be a bit of an exaggeration of course. The sound that I fell in love with on North Hills is still present on Nothing Is Wrong. Taylor Goldsmith’s earnest, heartfelt vocals are still there, accompanied by pristine harmonies from his bandmates, poignant lyrics, and rootsy Americana music that hearkens back to their heroes The Band, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and the Grateful Dead. But on Nothing Is Wrong, that sound has simply grown a bit. Just listen to the band wail at the end of the “Fire Away” – Griffin Goldsmith’s drums pop a little bit more and Wylie Gelber’s bass booms while Taylor Goldsmith’s guitar soars over the top with a fiery solo. While recording the album, Dawes were not afraid to stretch out and play their instruments a bit more, and as a result of the live chemistry they’ve developed over the past couple of years on the road, the band sounds more confident, aggressive and experimental musically.
While the entire band has grown musically, Taylor Goldsmith has also blossomed into the next great Americana songwriter, creating poignant songs with a healthy dose of lighthearted humor, and ultimately, optimism. On “So Well,” he sings “From my home I watch the people struggle through the burden of each day,” and that line seems to sum up Goldsmith’s approach to songwriting. Goldsmith sings about ordinary people and ordinary struggles, and is not afraid to tackle the big topics – life, love, and growing up.
Nowhere is this better demonstrated than on the album’s masterful final song, “A Little Bit Of Everything.” In the first two verses of “A Little Bit of Everything,” Taylor Goldsmith sings about the frustrations of everyday life, and how they can manifest themselves in depression and suicide. It appears to be a dark song, until Taylor unleashes a guitar solo unlike anything heard on a Dawes album before, playing notes that gel with Tay Strathairn’s piano so gorgeously that it’s almost guaranteed to leave the listener in tears and covered in goosebumps. The song’s final verse starts down a similarly dark path as the first two, before taking a sudden twist as Taylor sings, “I think love is so much easier than you realize, if you can give your heart to someone, then you should.” Taylor Goldsmith reminds us that it can be a cruel world out there, but, by turning to love, we can get by. “A Little Bit Of Everything” is a gem of a song, a song that like Dylan’s “Tangled Up In Blue,” describes the life experience so powerfully and vividly that it’s hard to imagine it was written by the twenty five year old Taylor Goldsmith.
Lyrically, Taylor doesn’t seem to be completely oblivious to how the band has been forced to grow up and mature with their sudden success, as evidenced by songs such as “How Far We’ve Come” and “Coming Back To A Man.” With just two albums and a combined age under one hundred, it truly is remarkable how quickly Dawes has ascended to prominence, earning the respect of Robbie Robertson and Jackson Browne. But what’s really exciting about Dawes is not how far they’ve come, but instead how far they still have to go, as their youth and drive combined with Goldsmith’s lyrical prowess and the gritty authenticity that pours forth out of the band’s songs means that their potential is just about unlimited.