“Just Beneath the Surface,” the opening song on Dawes’ new album, “Stories Don’t End,” has melody, poignancy and cadence of the kind heard in the songs of one of this young Los Angeles band’s southern California predecessors, Jackson Browne.
Dawes, featuring singer-guitarist Taylor Goldsmith, his drummer brother, Griffin, keyboardist Tay Strathairn and bassist Wylie Gelber, toured with Browne in Europe, serving as his opening act and backup band.
“Yeah, we love Jackson and we’re all big fans,” Gelber said last week during a few days between Dawes’ 21-show run as Bob Dylan’s opening act and the band’s latest headlining tour.
“Playing with Jackson and learning his songs, inside and out,” the bassist said, “rubbed off on us, in terms of the arc of a song and the lift the songs have. Those are some of the greatest parts of Jackson’s music.”
Besides Browne and Dylan, Dawes’ connections to classic artists include TV appearances with Robbie Robertson and joining John Fogerty in the recording studio and on the stage last week for his appearance on “Late Show with David Letterman.”
Fogerty’s latest album, “Wrote a Song For Everyone,” features classics from the former Creedence Clearwater Revival front man, re-recorded with a gang of great guest stars, including Dawes, Foo Fighters, Miranda Lambert, Kid Rock, Zac Brown Band and New Orleans’ Allen Toussaint and Rebirth Brass Band.
Dawes collaborated with Fogerty for “Someday Never Comes,” a song from Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 1972 album, “Mardi Gras.”
Dawes’ and Fogerty’s cross-generational recording session, their first in-person meeting, was serious but cordial.
“He’s the most outgoing, super-sweet person,” Gelber said. “But he was also very en pointe, super aware of all the parts and every musician in the band. He’s a joy to work with.”
Dawes found Dylan more distant.
“He sticks to himself,” Gelber said. “You kind of see him as he walks to and from the stage for the show or, if he goes to soundcheck, to and from that. Otherwise no real interaction.”
Even so it was cool for Dawes to be working with yet another great American songwriter.
“You gotta give it to the guy,” Gelber said. “Every show, even if he’s playing the same set, is different. His band is not locked into parts. He’s not locked into parts. He’ll start playing some motif on the piano. Then the band will pick up on it and, sooner or later, every song is changed from where it started.”
While the members of Dawes, whose members range from 22 to 31, don’t receive direct instruction from their famous elders, they learn through example.
“I learn less from them telling us specific things than by watching them as I play bass in their band,” Gelber said. “You learn from the experience of it all.”
Working with Dylan, Browne, Fogerty and Robertson has been a great pleasure for Dawes, but the band also has a growing legacy of its own.
“As much as I love to open up for Dylan and do all this stuff, I’m always the most excited when we get to out headlining. Tomorrow is the start of that. A bunch of the shows have been selling out.”
Dawes’ spring-into-summer tour includes the group’s New Orleans debut Tuesday at Tipitina’s. Despite never having performed in the city, Gelber visited when his father, Barry Gelber, worked as art director for HBO’s “Treme.” The bassist is a big fan of New Orleans and its music.
“George Porter Jr., he’s on my Top 5 list always,” Gelber said. “And I love Allen Toussaint and, obviously, the Meters, and Dr. John, Lee Dorsey, all that kind of stuff.”
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