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Dawes’ “Good Luck With Whatever” Reviewed

I first heard about Dawes from a Rolling Stone best of the year albums 2011 article. Their second album Nothing Is Wrong was on the list. I can’t remember what the review said but it sounded like something I’d enjoy. (If you like Jackson Browne, you’ll like…) I became somewhat obsessed, went and learned to play most of the songs on guitar. The last album I had felt that way about was Lucinda Williams’s Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. I just had to learn those songs!

That record dealt largely with loss in relationships- lead singer/songwriter Taylor Goldsmith can be a bit mopey at times but always musically excellent, with wonderful harmony singing from his brother Griffin. I’ve stayed with them over the years. Two albums later, All Your Favorite Bands was also wonderful. The title track became the mother/son dance at my oldest boy’s wedding. Subsequent records have been good but not great. They always had a few terrific songs but lacked the consistency of Nothing… and Favorite..

I’m happy to report that Dawes’s newest, Good Luck with Whatever, is a return to form. Goldsmith, now married to Mandy Moore on the rebound from Ryan Adams, has had to find another subject. Apparently he’s starting to feel old- he’s all of 35, so I don’t feel too bad form him. The opener “I Still Feel Like a Kid” and the closer “Me Especially” deal with the subject in a first a jaunty, then a bittersweet way. “Kid’ particularly echoed feelings I’ve had over the years – I still love rock and roll so how can I be an adult?

The title track and “None of My Business” give us a view of paranoia in today’s world- seems very appropriate as our fearless leader asks white supremacists to intimidate voters.

This album rocks pretty hard for Dawes, but the first song released, and to my ears the best, is “St. Augustine at Night”, a wistful nostalgic ballad about youth. It also asks, on a very personal level, how we got to be the people we are now. This was another song I immediately had to learn to play.

Good Luck with Whatever has perceptive lyrics writing and strong melodies, less meandering than some previous Dawes efforts. There’s not a weak song in the bunch. The music is more guitar and keyboard dominant, with less synth sound that cluttered some of the other later records. This may not be cutting edge stuff but I hope there will always be a place for great songwriting and harmony singing. Strongly recommended.

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