Concert Review: Dawes And Friends Get Back To The Root Of It All

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Originally written for Filter magazine and ATO Records.
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For those searching in the night for pure, unadulterated country music and musicianship, Dawes and company came to answer the call.

The tiny and dimly lit cafe and bar IOTA, located just off the thoroughfare of high-end shops and restaurants in Clarendon, Virginia's downtown, hosted Dawes and friends on tour to promote the album "North Hills." The wall-to-wall sell-out of the night's performances clearly indicated that for $12 a pop, attendees were ready to experience some of the best in up-and-coming talent in roots-y, glorious and glorifying Appalachian-style rock.

Dawes front man Taylor Goldsmith was already on stage way before his band, lending his vocals and axe to opening act Jason Boesel (former drummer for Rilo Kiley) by being part of his quartet, the Sparkling Water Boys. But it was perhaps the second act, country crooner phenom Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons, who was the night's biggest surprise. Chisel's gutsy and blues-soaked vocals immediately seized a murmuring crowd by being just earnest enough to slip over any ear and deep enough to reverberate in any soul. Bringing his influence of hymns and love for wide open spaces of the land, Chisel's strong delivery was reminiscent of a young Joe Cocker. Even a broken acoustic guitar mid-way through his second song couldn't cease his command of the stage. After a quick inquiry into the crowd to see if anyone had a spare, a fan graciously floated his guitar to the stage and the show went on.

Two graceful bows later from the opening acts, Dawes entered to a fully raucous crowd. The quartet continued with the unceasing foot-stomping trek across the Great Plains, the Midwest, and hills of Appalachia with their hit "When My Time Comes." The rolling introduction of drums on the group's revelatory and anthemic jam unleashed a flurry of beer bottles tipped to the air in gracious acknowledgment.

The album "North Hills" is fairly soft and mellow compared to the energy the band bring in a live setting. Dawes seem to command more immediate attention and emit more tenderness as a live act. The drums knocked a bit louder and the bass dug a little deeper on tracks like "That Western Skyline." And bass player Wylie Gelber kicked up the funk on the track "My Girl To Me." The quartet slipped into songs with minimal introduction, instead opting to let their harmonic vocals and lullaby-like melodies tell the stories tonight. Giving nods to their forefathers like Crosby Stills and Nash and Springsteen, Dawes easily maneuvered over one track to the next in one of the most enjoyable treks through country music this side of the Atlantic.

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