Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles. Zip Code 90046. The address of musicians since time began – Joni Mitchell, Frank Zappa, Jim Morrison, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Canned Heat, Love, Hendrix, Neil Young & Crazy Horse and Gram Parsons. It is also where Jonathan Wilson recorded ‘North Hills’ by Dawes.
Native to California, Dawes are brothers Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith plus Wylie Gelber and Tay Strathairn. With ‘North Hills’, they have created a fuzzy-folk, Seventies- soaked record of flawless musicianship and classic, well-crafted songs, that pays homage to their influences while still sounding fresh.
The first song, That Western Skyline, sounds like an out-take from The Band, and would have had (the sadly missed) Levon Helm smiling broadly. Swirling hammond organ, boxy drums, soaring male harmonies – this track gives you the Laurel Canyon sound immediately.
The decision to record onto two inch analogue tape was a good one. This album sounds lovely – warm, rich and immediate. It sounds like a great band playing together in a room – a simple idea, but hard to get right.
Looking to the old to create something new is a way of finding your own sound and voice and although Dawes influences are obvious, this collection is not just derivative. There are some really good songs on here.
My Girl To Me is a poppy little gem, with choppy T-Rex guitars giving it a retro British feel and God Rest My Soul is loose and early-Brucey. The classic, anthemic When You Call My Name and upbeat, country-rock of When My Time Comes show great craft and commercial awareness. Goldsmith’s lyrics aren’t bad either – “So if you want to get to know me, follow my smile down to its curves, all these lines are born in sorrows and pleasures, and every man ends up with the face that he deserves.”
If you like Neil Young’s ‘Tonights The Night’, Bob Dylan & The Band’s ‘Basement Tapes’, Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Nebraska’ and anything by The Byrds or Gram Parsons, then you will love ‘North Hills’.
I enjoyed listening to this record – the fat guitar tones, the mellow, authentic acoustics, but it does sound a little too careful to me. While their documented influences were rough and edgy, this collection sometimes seems too polished. That is something that playing these songs live will remedy though, I’m sure.
As a debut, ‘North Hills’ is stunning – earthy, laid-back, West Coast vintage rock of a very high caliber. It’s the sound of the evening sun going down over the Californian hills. It’s beautiful.
UPDATE – MARCH 2013
DAWES will be opening for Bob Dylan on the following dates:
05 – Buffalo, NY – SUNY Buffalo – Alumni Arena *
06 – Amherst, MA – University of Massachusetts – Mullins Center *
08 – Kingston, RI – University of Rhode Island – Ryan Center *
09 – Lowell, MA – University of Massachusetts – Tsongas Center *
10 – Lewiston, ME – Androscoggin Bank Colis’e *
12 – Newark, DE – University of Delaware – Bob Carpenter Center *
13 – California, PA – California University – Convocation Center *
14 – Ithaca, NY – Cornell University – Barton Hall *
16 – Richmond, VA – Landmark Theatre *
18 – Bethlehem, PA – Lehigh University – Stabler Arena *
19 – Akron, OH – The University of Akron – EJ Thomas Hall *
20 – Kalamazoo, MI – Wings Stadium *
21 – Bowling Green, OH – Bowling Green State University – Stroh Center *
Copyright © 2012 William Henry Prince.
Thanks: Naomi @ circuitsweet.co.uk