I can't disguise my bias here, I'm a huge Dawes fan, so the announcement of a new album from the L.A four piece always has my anticipation antenna on alert. They epitomise the Laurel Canyon sound, soulful and laid back evoking the spirit of acts like Jackson Brown, The Band and Warren Zevon. Taylor Goldsmiths insightful lyrics traverse the difficulties of relationships often against the backdrop of an unfriendly city, that of L.A. His vision would only partially exist if it weren't for bassist Wylie Gelber who is a very melodic yet understated bass player, Tay Strathairn on keys another master of the understatement in his playing, and Griffin Goldsmith on drums who to me has an eerily familiar drumming sound, reminiscent of the great Levon Helm.
All Your Favourite Bands saw Dawes decamp to Nashville to work with Dave Rawlings and his presence helped to strip the bands sound back, actually it makes them sound more like The Band. There is a lot of space in how each song is constructed, in places Griffin Goldsmiths drums are given more prominence as he adds a deeper presence and feel to each song. There is also more focus on the harmonies, with some assistance from Gillian Welch and the McCrary Sisters. Things Happen is just simply a great rock and roll song, very soulful a reflective take on how in life things just happen, often without rhyme or reason.
Let's make a list of all the things the world has put you through
Let's raise a glass to all the people you're not speaking to
I don't know what else you wanted me to say to you
Things happen that's all they ever do
Goldsmith has the knack for imbuing his songs with characters whose lives just can't quite reach what their grasping for, he eloquently captures that sense of disappointment and loss. Somewhere Along The Way captures that sense of loss in a weary fashion but just as you might feel a sense of hopelessness Goldsmith holds out an optimistic olive branch, the song has a proud restraint rooted firmly in the rhythm patters on Tay Strathairns piano.
She was certain she could take this town by storm,
The wonder of sound and light seeking a form
But somewhere along the way
The dots didn't all connect
The promise became regrets
On the long drive from El Paso to the Pacific Ocean cliffs
I finally felt connected to the continental drift.
Goldsmith will often add in these great references to L.A whether it be looking down on a 100 swimming pools as he did on From a Window Seat on Stories Don't End or singing about the solar panels dotting the Hollywood Hills. He also holds out a sense of hope and optimism in All Your Favourite Bands that nostalgic hope that things won't change that everything that is good will remain and that we never experience heartbreak and loss,
When I think of you, you still have on that hat that says lets party
I hope that thing is never thrown away
I hope that life without a chaperone is what you thought it would be
I hope your brothers El Camino runs forever
I hope the world sees the same person as you've always been to me
I hope all your favourite bands stay together.
The solemn I Can't Think About It Now features gospel group the McCrary Sisters on backing vocals, it also has some great guitar work from Goldsmith a very restrained but emotive lingering solo. To Be Completely Honest sounds like the perfect mashup of Jackson Brown and The Band, think that open sound, coyly filled by a growling gospel organ sound, some tasteful guitar licks, drums that not only drive the song but add a depth to the feeling and Wylie in the background laying that crucial bottom end.
All Your Favourite Bands is Dawes most cohesive and consistent album, musically the band have come on in leaps. It sounds like Dave Rawlings has stripped back their sound and each element put together to complement the other, very similar to the approach favoured by The Band. Its musically very tight but they gain so much more from a lot less, it's a great sounding album.