It sounds like a good amount of polish and care went into Dawes' gorgeous debut CD, "North Hills," so it wouldn't have been surprising if the Los Angeles country/folk-rock quartet turned out to be a letdown on stage at the Triple Rock last night (i.e., the studio magic was too much to thank). Turns out, though, these guys are the real deal. Singer Taylor Goldsmith, in particular, sang his ass off last night and stood out like a talent for the ages, sounding like a young Graham Nash while also playing some gorgeous guitar leads a la Gary Louris. He and his harmony partners weren't spot-on with their vocal parts ("Give Me Time" was especially a little rough), but like the Band did in its most wasted days, they still all sang with enough soul to cover up any holes -- and enough to oftentimes send chills up your spine.
The standouts in their hourlong set included the especially CS&N-ish "Love Is All I Am" and the Flying Burrito Bros-style closer "When My Time Comes," which turned into a campfire-warm singalong. The Current-spun hit "That Westward Skyline" was jaw-droppingly soulful, too. I can't wait to see these guys again.
Headliners Cory Chisel & the Wandering Songs certainly weren't a letdown, either. The highlight of their set was the serene ballad "Tennessee" (and "serene" is hard to pull off at the Triple Rock), and then they peaked with a well-harmonized cover of Loudon Wainwright's "One Man Guy" that led into their own Current hit "Born Again." The Iron Range-rooted Chisel called up a burly male cousin from Ely to sing the last verse and chorus of the song, and he certainly deserved an A for enthusiasm and effort.
The Dawes members also played backing band to opener Jason Boesel, heretofore a drummer for the likes of Rilo Kiley and Bright Eyes ("I grew up playing drums at the 400 Bar," he noted). Boesel had some nicely poetic and witty and/or weary Dylan-meets-Stephen Malkmus tunes, but his poor singing voice was too much to take.