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Thursday, 16 May 2013 11:13

Album review: Dawes moves Laurel Canyon into the studio with 'Stories Don't End'

Album review: Dawes moves Laurel Canyon into the studio with 'Stories Don't End'
Written by Kevin Edwards
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"Stories Don't End
Hub Records

Dawes is from Los Angeles and have become linked to a new Laurel Canyon sound that remakes the sound (if not the scene) made in the late '60s by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Joni Mitchell, the Byrds and others. Their music harks back to a time when the grass was green, not red or purple, and mellow was a way of life, not an ice cream flavor.

Dawes is made up of brothers Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith on guitar and drums, Wylie Gelber on bass and Tay Strathairn on keyboards. Taylor also sings lead vocals, and his voice has matured mightily on this album, with a fuller tone compared to the first two efforts.

In fact, "Stories Don't End" is a much more mature album than the first two and it's more produced. Composition, lyrical content, song construction and production all are a little slicker on the new effort, and that could be good or bad, depending on why you listen to Dawes.

The sound of the album is varied but there are Jackson Browne influences throughout. Dawes supported Browne at many events, including some Occupy activist events, over the past couple of years and is also thanked on the album. The connection they made appears to be strong and is heard most clearly on "Just Beneath the Surface," "Someone Will" and "The Right Angle."

But, especially on the ballads, there is also a strong similarity to Elvis Costello, who sat in on some of the early jams in the Canyon. Costello will often present a ballad in the manner of a pub song, sung out from the heart in some craggy dive, surrounded by kindred spirits, and it is this style and influence that occupies songs like "Just My Luck," "Most People," "Something in Common" and the title track.

The first Dawes album, "North Hills," was actually cut in Laurel Canyon, live to analog, with plenty of celebrity sit-ins, and is a pretty groovy representation of what it would be like to be in hippie heaven, playing music with friends.

The second album, "Nothing Is Wrong," sounds more like Buffalo Springfield with early Eagles' harmonies and could have been lifted from one of the most prolific and game-changing eras of rock music: the laid-back, singer-songwriter epoch that spawned so much great music in the late '60s and early '70s.

On the new album, Taylor Goldsmith holds all but two songwriting credits and, lyrically, the album is dreamy and a little melancholy but the musical composition keeps it from becoming maudlin. The opening song, "Just Beneath the Surface," finds a man hiding from even himself.

Just beneath the surface
There's another one of me
At the root of all my trouble
In the twitch before I speak
With thoughts and revelations
Even I could not accept
So just beneath the surface
Is where he will be kept

"Just My Luck" captures the feeling of helplessness and missed opportunities that end up mattering.

Just my luck I never said I loved you
Just my luck it completely slipped my mind
It's not my colder hearted tendencies
That keep you from being here with me
Or the universe's brilliant designs
It's just my luck

In "Stories Never End," the title track, the lyric ponders where to draw the line of the story; no matter what perspective is taken, the story goes on past the point of telling. That seems true and perhaps even profound. As an album, "Stories Never End" may be more in line with mid-career efforts from the bands' influences, but it's just where the line was drawn this time; the story goes on.

Whether they are playing high above the City of the Angels, shirtless and high in the warmth of the sun, or making a well-produced studio record, Dawes represent a current link to that now historic and creative power which pulled the record industry to the west coast as the '60s were waning.

It's a sound that is still evolving, and Dawes is doing its part to make sure the story doesn't end.

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