Dawes finds distance from the 'Americana' label with a new set of songs 

Dawes and Effect

Dawes and Effect

On the first single from Dawes'new LP Stories Don't End, frontman Taylor Goldsmith is singing about his neuroses. Called "From a Window Seat (Rivers and Freeways)," the track — an update on the sort of thoughtful but breezy and up-tempo music made familiar by the likes of Jackson Browne or even the Eagles — was born out of his escalating fear of flying. And that's a mode of transportation that's rather unavoidable when you're in an internationally touring band.

"These planes are good for sifting through the warriors from the men," sings Goldsmith. "I get time to sit and watch them for a while / You can see everywhere they're going and everywhere they've been / And how they look out at the clouds each time they smile."

Now, Dawes is not exactly known for the subtlety in their lyrics — Goldsmith has always gravitated toward a direct, narrative mode of writing. He's unafraid of sentiment, metaphor or mentions of everyday things. This approach bleeds through to the entire band, to his brother Griffin's precise drumming, to Tay Straithairn's warm, refined keys and to Wylie Gelber's tasteful bass lines. There's no trickery; just a sense of commitment to music over image that is wise beyond Goldsmith & Co.'s years.

"It's interesting how a lot of people will look at someone like Willie Nelson, who has these very heartfelt, earnest love songs, and everyone will love them," says Goldsmith. "But if an artist does that nowadays it's like, 'Whoa, man, reel it in a little bit.' People reject that openness."

But it's exactly that sort of openness that has captured Dawes' devoted fan base since the band formed in their hometown of L.A. in 2009. From tiny clubs to the stadiums where they've opened for Bob Dylan and Mumford & Sons, Dawes has never had a problem capturing their audience's attention, inspiring sing-alongs or riling up the crowd. It's emotional music, but it certainly isn't emo; it's rock 'n' roll, really.

"That's how I would describe us," Goldsmith says. "The toughest thing for musicians is when someone says, 'What kind of music do you play?' Are we an L.A. band? No, not really. Folk? Nah."

Dawes is often lumped in with a variety of musical categories and subgenres: Americana, California/Laurel Canyon rock, folk or '60s revivalism. True, they take some cues from all of the aforementioned sounds, but you won't find a fiddle or dobro on one of their records — nor will you hear a synthesizer, for that matter. What's refreshing about Dawes is their lack of attachment to any particular sort of well-worn aesthetic: Their image isn't hyper-managed to seem particularly grungy or old-timey; their lyrics are more straightforward than current trends might allow, but they're contextualized with modern language; their commitment to musicianship is indefatigable. They don't feel the need to buddy up with Pitchfork-friendly acts, and they're not hard partiers. They hang with Robbie Robertson and Jackson Browne; they use their downtime to practice, read or cook.

For Stories Don't End, they recruited producer Jacquire King (Kings of Leon, Modest Mouse) and a new recording studio in Asheville, N.C. — not to achieve a new sound, but to get to the most distilled form of what Dawes innately is; to buck the California and Americana characterizations, and to capture a set of songs that Goldsmith identifies with more than any before.

"This part is subjective, but I feel like this music represents me much better than the songs on the first record," says Goldsmith. "But I'm not the person I was six years ago, either. Anyway, I don't write the way I write because I think that's how someone should write. I write the way I write because that's the way it comes out."

Aerophobia and all.

Email Music@nashvillescene.com.

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