"There’s definitely a shift going on now, too. When the Grammys were on this year, I noticed that almost every Album of the Year nominee was under 30. I came up in a time when Springsteen, the Stones, Dylan, and the Beatles were still dominant. For every magazine cover with a new band, there were five covers with one of those guys."
We are in the midst of a music renaissance. We burned down the old edifice and in its place we’re building something new, albeit with some of those old 70′s values.
The classic rock artists are bitching they can’t get paid for recorded music, even though they haven’t put out anything listenable in eons and are touring at inflated prices to ever-diminishing crowds. The cord-cutting between the audience and radio and MTV in the past decade has shown the virtues of classic rock, suddenly it was all available for the taking and the young ‘uns did. But now, they’re creating for themselves. And the audience is vast. This is a sea change so gigantic many can’t yet see it. If you’re not part of the scene, you’re lamenting that music was great back when and there’s no new good stuff and you’re sick of the Top Forty crap.
And one thing we know is the mainstream media is last, it’s interested in the most eyeballs. As a result we get a travesty like the VMAs and an attendant press corps trumpeting its ratings, not realizing that exercise was about money and self-promotion, whereas the new scene is being built away from prying eyes, but it’s burgeoning.
I knew the name, but the first person to testify about Dawes was my friend Rick Cummings, a Deadhead if there ever was one, he accompanied the band to Egypt, he was a friend of Owsley. He and his wife went on a long road trip last summer and when they came back he couldn’t stop testifying about Dawes, he even laid a burnt CD on me, he said I needed to hear the music.
That was something, but it wasn’t enough.
Then there was that gig a couple of months back, over in hipdom, otherwise known as Silver Lake. The band was backing up Jackson Browne. One never knows what these mashups portend. Are they going to play JB’s tunes or Dawes songs? I didn’t go, but it was the number one show of the year so far, the buzz was deafening, I got e-mail from the gig swooning. And then this concoction went on the road together, in Europe.
And this year the lineup at the Santa Monica Pier’s Twilight Dance Series has been substandard, I haven’t gone, but then I heard Dawes was performing last night. I wanted to go, but I had a conflicting obligation. But then I heard a song on the radio.
Not on terrestrial. If you’re still listening to that format, you’re out of the loop. I heard this track on Sirius XM’s Spectrum. And I winced at Mark Goodman’s introduction, here’s "brand new" music from Dawes! My idea of brand new is this week. The Dawes album came out months ago. Why can’t we banish this jive-talking from the radio? Fans want to be treated like they know something. Bring Lee Abrams back to satellite and reeducate the deejays.
The track Goodman played was SO special I changed my plans on a dime, I canceled dinner, I had to go to the Pier.
Now the new acts are unlike those of the past twenty five years, they don’t dance, they don’t employ hard drives, honesty and truth are key. They’re the antidote to the b.s. If you can’t just plug in and wail, they’re not interested.
And boy did Dawes wail.
And they had special guests. Blake Mills, who used to be in the band, who truly soared, and another guitarist I can’t remember the name of who entered into a battle with the lead and…
Yes, it was a special evening last night on the Pier. A one time event. Not the same gig in every hall across America.
And they didn’t play JB’s material, they did two Warren Zevon songs, "Mohammed’s Radio" and "Lawyers, Guns And Money", Jackson’s single-handedly keeping Zevon’s memory alive, in the old oral tradition, recordings are not as important as actually playing these tunes.
But the highlight was that song I heard on the Spectrum, "A Little Bit Of Everything".
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
In the tradition of all great story songs, from "Celluloid Heroes" to "The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald", "A Little Bit Of Everything" exists in its own vacuum, it sounds like nothing else, it’s an instant anthem.
Oh it’s a little bit of everything
It’s the mountains, it’s the fog
It’s the news at six o’clock, it’s the death of my first dog
It’s the angels up above me, it’s the song that they don’t sing
It’s a little bit of everything
Ever feel overwhelmed? Maybe you haven’t contemplated suicide, but you’ve certainly experienced despair, it’s the human condition.
And you might say the singer hasn’t got a great voice, but neither did Dylan. It hasn’t been about what you have to say for far too long. But this guy has got something to say. It’s like we’re living back in the era of "Late For The Sky".
But that was almost forty years ago, 1974 to be exact. But give Jackson credit, for refusing to become calcified, hooking himself to the star of these youngsters.
The artists are the beacons. The businessmen have lost the way, pursuing money instead of that warm sensation inside that has you feeling you’re not alone on the planet, that someone else understands you, that’s what a great record delivers.
And "A Little Bit Of Everything" is not the only good song on the album. I especially like "If I Wanted Someone" with this exquisite line:
If I wanted someone to clean me up, I’d find myself a maid
That’s not what we’re looking for in a relationship, we just want someone to "make the days move easy".
"If I Wanted Someone" is a twist on Neil Young’s "A Man Needs A Maid" without the excesses of those with the spotlight upon them, speaking of rims and ho’s.
Life is challenging. Who’s singing about that?
And the audience sang along with "When My Time Comes", from the previous album. You can go unnoticed by the arbiters, the mainstream, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have fans, who’ll listen to you, come out to see you, support you.
And that’s what it’s about. Connecting.
You can jam something down someone’s throat, but that’s commerce, not art.
The audience comes to great art, they just need a few pointers from friends.
And when I pointed a friend to Dawes he went on Spotify and was immediately hooked and accompanied me to the gig.
I don’t know how you get rich in the new world, I think you’ve got to do it for the love, for the journey, for the experience.
Thank god someone original is plowing forward, we can hitch ourselves to them.
Dawes put a smile on my face, reinvigorated me, made me believe what once was, that elusive elixir that hooked me back when, has returned.
It’s a brilliant start.
Climb on board.
P.S. Besides the above tracks, listen to "Time Spent In Los Angeles" and "Million Dollar Bill". If "Nothing Is Wrong" were just a bit better track for track, Dawes would be the new Mumford & Sons. You create and think nobody is listening. This is wrong. If you’re any good, you’d be stunned how many care, how many pay attention. Strive for excellence. It’s gonna be recognized.