It’s been a long and winding year for Dawes. In between recording and releasing a sophomore record, the L.A.-based folk rockers have been splitting their time between side projects (with indie supergroup Middle Brother), legendary tour stints (backing The Band’s Robbie Robertson), and a sizable array of notable opening slots (for M. Ward and Alison Krauss, to name just two).
“We definitely all feel more at home on tour than we do at home nowadays,” laughed frontman Taylor Goldsmith, via phone from a very short stop in Los Angeles. “We’re leaving tomorrow for a one-day gig in Arizona, then coming back here, then leaving again.” The band swings by SOhO on Saturday, October 8.
Not surprisingly, the quartet’s sprawling sophomore effort, Nothing Is Wrong, was written mostly from the road, and it very much feels like a band on the move. Like its predecessor, the tracks vary between full-blown country rock and twangy, Laurel Canyon-imbued folk, each colored by a mix of fat, punching drum work, parlor-style pianos, whirling analog organ tones, and sing-along–ready harmonies that call to mind ’60s greats like Crosby, Stills and Nash and Creedence Clearwater Revival.
As Goldsmith puts it, “The first album was very much a meditation on being home and wanting to get out there. The new album is us reporting back from the thick of it. I sound a bit like the rambling man, and I think that’s the case for most musicians. It’s inevitable.”
Nothing Is Wrong also finds Goldsmith stretching his songwriting muscles and penning lyrics that are more linear and story-like than anything he’s written before. “I sort of felt like I wanted to write from a place that was very direct and very conscious this time out,” he explained. “Songs like ‘When My Time Comes’ and ‘When You Call My Name’ [from the band’s 2009 debut, North Hills], if you asked me what those songs were about, I couldn’t really tell you. With each of these songs, there’s a much more clear meaning behind them.”
As such, Nothing Is Wrong is filled with tales from the road, and, on tracks like “Time Spent in Los Angeles,” ruminations on being far from home. In particular, the album opener weaves through a night in which Goldsmith meets a fellow Angeleno on tour and laments on the happy-sad earmark that the city has left on her.
“You got that special kind of sadness / You got that tragic set of charms / That only comes from time spent in Los Angeles / Makes me wanna wrap you in my arms,” he sings, as much to the girl in question as to himself.
It’s a sentiment also addressed in the album’s title, which Goldsmith admitted is indicative of an “overarching theme within the songs I write.” He continued, “When someone says, ‘nothing is wrong,’ it’s either to placate someone who doesn’t believe you or to placate yourself. It has a reassuring quality, even in the face of doubt or questioning. I remember reading a review of the album that wasn’t very favorable, and I looked up at the title and kind of thought, ‘Maybe that’s why it’s there, to help me keep looking at the bigger picture.’”
If it’s the big picture that Dawes has in mind, then they’re certainly in good company. “Being around these people, you just get an idea of what a lifetime of work looks like,” Goldsmith said of playing alongside greats like Krauss and Robertson. “It’s not about playing to 100,000 people—though that would be great—but we want a catalogue of solid records. To us, that’s all that matters, and I don’t want to be any other band than the one that we are.”
Dawes plays a co-headlining bill with Blitzen Trapper this Saturday, October 8, at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.). For tickets and info, call 962-7776 or visit clubmercy.com.