The “mellow mafia” ghosts are definitely haunting Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith along with their canyon-rock band Dawes. The band that recently released their excellent sophomore effort “Nothing is Wrong”, is so entrenched in the Laurel Canyon scene that bred Linda Ronstadt, Stephen Stills, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Warren and many others, that they purchased a home in the musical Mecca that is in the hills just north of Los Angeles.
With the subject matter of some of their songs along with their country rock-vibe sound, you would think that back in the day they were running around naked like the kids on the cover of Woodstock vol. 2, while Joni, James, and Stephen Stills were sitting on the porch having a guitar pull and song swap. After all, Jackson Browne himself appears on the new album and Robbie Robertson selected them to be his backing band for a series of festival gigs during the summer.
The reality of it is that their father, Lenny Goldsmith, was a singer for Bay Area funksters Tower of Power and preached to them that the music of Bob Dylan and The Grateful Dead was not virtuosic enough and instead exposed his sons to Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, and the rest of the Soul Stirrers.
The band’s acoustic based singer/songwriter influence comes from the canyon-rock renaissance of the late nineties and the emergence of Beachwood Sparks and their eponymous album released in 2000. It was then that the boys dropped their Green Day and Weezer covers and headed for the cosmic cowboy highway.
Nothing Is Wrong is the album that firmly establishes the band as lords of a kingdom they should rule over for the next several years. Few in the game have mastered the formula of mid-tempo, acoustic based, mostly guitar with a piano and a pedal steel thrown in for good measure, songs with angelic sibling harmonies thrown in to sweeten the pot. Taylor Goldsmith’s lead vocals sounds eerily like Gram Parsons at times, and the organ in just the right spots, make you think of “The Band” in their “Basement Tapes” days.
The album opens with “Time Spent In Los Angeles”, a song that sounds a bit like” Mudcrutch” Tom Petty on Quaaludes, and features the unique voice of Taylor Goldsmith, a clear soulful croon that soars a bit over an ocean of organ playing at times and sparse brush drumming at other times. Taylor also uses his vocals in fine fashion with his night job with canyon/psych rock super group Middle Brother featuring Taylor along with members of Deer Tick and Delta Spirit.
We get into Neil Young and Crazy Horse territory with the second cut on the album, “If I Wanted Someone” The beauty of this song is that just as the song seems to be reeling out of control in fuzz- guitar frenzy, the band reels in the proceedings with some delicate ivory tickling and a vocal finish. I closed my eyes in the middle and thought I was listening to Harvest.
My Way back home is a six minute mini-epic that is a downright James Taylor ballad that shows off their singer/songwriter side. Their method of songwriting pays dividends on this song as they use a typewriter when writing their songs instead of a computer to make sure the words that are put down on paper are deliberate and precise.
“Coming Back To A Man” is a lover scorned highway 1 driving song that is about as up-tempo as the album gets. You broke the quick giving heart of a kid and you’re coming back to a man, a great line on my favorite song of the album.
The proceeding slow down to a “For a Dancer” pace with “So Well” on a song that sounds like spot-on David Crosby, the pre liver transplant, jail-house resident, David Crosby that is.
“Million Dollar Bill” is a song the boys share with “Middle Brother” with guitar and soft drumming setting the mood for a “woman left me” song with some well-placed Ooh, Ooh, Ooh’s along the way.
The last song on the album is “A Little Bit of Everything”. It is instrumentally pleasing and lyrically it is about as good as songwriting gets.
With his back against the San Francisco traffic, on the bridge’s side that faces towards the jail, setting out to join a demographic, he hoists his first leg up over the rail.
The song is about a potential Golden Gate Bridge jumper despondent over the death of his son and is talked down from certain death by a police officer and ends up at a restaurant.
I want a little bit of everything the biscuits and the beans, whatever helps me to forget about the things that brought me to my knees. So pile on those mashed potatoes and an extra chicken wing I’m having a little bit of everything.
This tour-de-force of a song tells you everything you need to know about his album and the exiting future of this band.
It’s a little bit of everything it’s the matador and the bull, it’s the suggested daily dosage it’s the red moon when it’s full. All these psychics and these doctors, they’re all right and they’re all wrong it’s like trying to make out every word when they should simply hum along. It’s not some message written in the dark or some truth that no one sees. It’s a little bit of everything.
And that is exactly what this Album gives us…………..A Little Bit of Everything.
– Walt Falconer
- Time Spent in Los Angeles 4:28
- If I Wanted Someone 4:39
- My Way Back Home 6:25
- Coming Back to a Man 3:51
- So Well 5:31
- How Far We’ve Come 2:59
- Fire Away 6:23
- Moon in the Water 3:54
- Million Dollar Bill 4:12
- The Way You Laugh 3:48
- A Little Bit of Everything 5:39
- Wylie Gelber Bass,
- Griffin Goldsmith Drums, Percussion, Vocals,
- Taylor Goldsmith Guitar, Organ, Piano,
- Tay Strathairn Piano
- Jackson Browne Vocals
- Alex Casnoff Piano, Vocals
- Ben Peeler Lap Steel Guitar
- Benmont Tench Organ
- Jonathan Wilson Mandolin, Percussion, Vocals