Dawes (photo courtesy of Big Hassle PR)
Good Luck with Whatever
Rounder Records/HUB Records II
Emerging from the Los Angeles area with influences and admirers that read like a who’s who of the Laurel Canyon music scene, Dawes is one of the torchbearers of that wholly American musical phenomenon.
It may be hard to believe, but Dawes have been at it for over a decade, and Good Luck with Whatever is the latest chapter to come from these darlings of California’s sun-kissed folk rock scene. Dawes is guitarist, lead singer and principal songwriter Taylor Goldsmith, his brother Griffin Goldsmith (drums), Wylie Gelber (bass) and Lee Pardini (keyboards).
The origins of Dawes can be traced back to the band Simon Dawes, who were active in the mid ‘00s. Taylor Goldsmith and Blake Mills were two of the founding members of Simon Dawes, with Gelber eventually coming onboard. But in 2007, Mills departed Simon Dawes, prompting Goldsmith and Gelber to call on Goldsmith’s younger brother, Griffin, and keyboardist and vocalist Tay Strathairn to reconfigure the band into Dawes. (Mills would go on to a successful career as a session and touring musician, producer, and solo artist.)
Dawes issued their debut album North Hills in the summer of 2009 and followed it in 2011 with Nothing Is Wrong, which featured new keyboardist Alex Casnoff. Both of those albums were produced by Jonathan Wilson. The third album, 2013’s Stories Don’t End, saw the return of Strathairn to the band. Dawes then called on David Rawlings to produce 2015’s, All Your Favorite Bands. A Simon Dawes reunion of sorts occurred when Mills was asked to produce We’re All Gonna Die in 2016, which featured the debut of keyboardist Pardini, followed by Wilson’s return to the producer’s chair for Passwords in 2018.
Good Luck with Whatever is the seventh long player from Dawes. It’s appropriate that they chose to open the album with the rocking “Still Feel Like A Kid,” with its “getting older, but feeling young at heart” theme.
Good Luck with Whatever is a showcase for a band that has evolved and matured over eleven years, but sound as young and energized as kids. Driving, literate, old-school rock and roll is what Dawes does best and that’s on display in the retro “None Of My Business.”
“Between the Zero and the One” and “Me Especially” (written by Taylor and Jim James) are soaring, grand showcases for Taylor’s vivid, direct lyrics. “Who Do You Think You’re Talking To?” (which is co-written by Mills) shoots a driving power-pop energy into the heart of the album, which also boasts the thought-provoking, acoustic story-song “St. Augustine At Night.” This track slows matters considerably, allowing space for the emotionally tender character studies to develop. It’s a quality of Taylor’s songs that has become one of his primary trademarks.
Taylor looks within himself to address inner discontent in “Didn’t Fix Me,” which exudes the warmth of a classic Jackson Browne song that comes straight from the heart.
Dawes recruited Dave Cobb to produce Good Luck with Whatever, which was recorded at RCA Studios in Nashville.
With a back catalogue as rich as the one that Dawes has, saying Good Luck with Whatever is their finest album yet is open to speculation, but there is no denying that they reinforce their already rock-solid reputation with this well-crafted album. With Good Luck with Whatever, Dawes captures many of the key components of the finest thinking person's classic rock from the past.