Kind of a better surprise too than some of the nastier ones we’ve had in recent months. Paste report: “Dawes are a band that have largely built their reputation as road warriors, with shows that give a stronger sense of immediacy and power to Taylor Goldsmith’s songwriting than can be found on their studio releases, filled with full-crowd sing-alongs and stretched-out jams that give all of the members their chance to shine. Yet it somehow took until now for them to release their first live album. “We’re All Gonna Live”, a play on their latest album “We’re All Gonna Die”, was surprise-released yesterday and features recordings from the first four shows of their current tour, which were just a month ago.
Goldsmith said of the album: “With this tour we’ve felt like we’ve begun to turn a corner as a live band so we figured it was time to share some of it with everyone. It’s not the full-length experience but we’re hoping that it’s enough of a taste for people to take a little bit of the show experience back into their homes with them and hopefully inspire them enough to come check out the show once we get into town.”
This release comes at an interesting time in Dawes’ timeline. Following the departure of longtime keyboardist Tay Strathairn in 2015 along with a short stint on co-lead guitar from Duane Betts, the musical chemistry that had defined the band was shook up. Strathairn was replaced by Lee Pardini and they teamed up with Blake Mills to record their divisive recent album. The record shifted their sound dramatically away from the vintage California folk-rock sound they had built their name upon and towards something much tighter and more heavily produced. This current tour is the first full outing of these new tunes and this new sound, and includes additional guitarist Trevor Menear to fill out the multiple guitar parts that fill the album, so one might go into We’re All Gonna Live expecting to hear a band still working out the kinks just a little bit. But that’s not the case. Obviously, there was likely some cherry-picking, given that the record features just 15 songs from four shows that have featured around 25 each, but Dawes sound just as strong as they always have.
Just about half of the album is comprised of songs from We’re All Gonna Die, and for those who have struggled to fall in love with that material, try checking out these performances. While a song like “When the Tequila Runs Out” still sticks out in opposition to what most Dawes fans are looking for, many of the other tunes reveal their true strength. “Quitter” takes the production of the studio version and injects some real personality, especially in Goldsmith’s vocal delivery, while the jams at the end of both “Picture of a Man” and “Less Than Five Miles Away” see Dawes delve into some of their most interesting musical explorations to date, and the darkness of the album’s title track is accentuated with the short, slightly humorous “Still Gonna Die (Intro).”
Still, it’s on some of older live staples of Dawes’ catalog, some with slightly reworked arrangements, that this release is at its best. “Coming Back to a Man,” off of 2011’s Nothing Is Wrong, makes for a strong opener, and “A Little Bit of Everything” remains perhaps the single strongest example of Goldsmith’s ability as a songwriter and the crowd-favorite it deserves to be. Song from their third and fourth albums, “From the Right Angle” and “Somewhere Along the Way,” respectively, also prove to be highlights, showing Dawes at their breezy but emotional best.
There are a number of notable absences from the song selection here, in particular “When My Time Comes,” or any other songs from their debut album, for that matter. We think there would be few complaints if the band were to release an expanded version of this, maybe bump it up to a double album to match the two-set format of this “Evening with Dawes” tour. Just a thought.
We’re All Gonna Live is available to stream here, or you can listen to the first track below.