Who was Simon Dawes? Well, it wasn't a person but a band moniker taken from the middle names of vocalist/guitarist Blake Simon Mills and vocalist/guitarist Taylor Dawes Goldsmith. The two had been playing together since junior high. Goldsmith also had a music pedigree. His father Lenny fronted the '70s edition of Tower Of Power.
The Malibu-based musicians added bassist Wylie Gelber and session drummer Stuart Johnson, who was subsequently replaced by Goldsmith's kid brother Griffin.
A pair of EPs, a self-titled effort and "What No One Hears," preceded the group's '06 full-length debut, "Carnivore." Then there were a couple changes.
The band moved inland basing themselves in Northridge. More significantly, Mills left which necessitated shortening the name to Dawes. Actor Tay Strathairn was enlisted on keyboards but Alex Cosnoff soon replaced him.
This revamped line-up released "North Hills" in '09. All songs were written and sung by Taylor Goldsmith.
The band made their television debut on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson in '10. Other appearance followed including a couple stints backing Robbie Robertson (The Band)- Goldsmith provided backing vocals for Robertson's solo comeback album "How To Become Clairvoyant."
The other big TV news came when "When My Time Comes," from "North Hills," was used in a national advertising campaign by Chevy.
In early '11 (2/21) there was the announcement that "Alex Casnoff left the band a few months ago. Tay Straithairn was before, and is NOW the keyboard player." Dawes issued their sophomore effort, "Nothing Is Wrong," a couple of months later.
2009 North Hills
2010 Nothing Is Wrong
"North Hills" sounds like Crosby, Stills and Nash with all the lead vocals handled by Stephen Stills. It's most pronounced on the ballad "Love Is All I Am." But absent a "Suite: Judy Blue-Eyes" or even a "Love The One You're With" this album is low-key and one-dimensional.
"My Girl To Me" is pleasant Country-Rock. But for an album that was, according to reports, largely recorded live-in-studio there's not much life beyond "When My Time Comes," When You Call My Name" and "God Rest My Soul." What Dawes needs to do is exactly what CSN did following their debut - step-up their game and find their own Neil Young.
That's just where Dawes heads on "Nothing Is Wrong" where California County Rock is the touchstone and the songs have a philosophical bend. "Time Spent In Los Angeles" could have been written by Timothy B. Schmit for the Eagles "Long Run." Dawes taps their inner-Young on "If I Wanted Someone" before the band delivers undiluted Country, complete with harmonica, on "Coming Back To A Man."
Most stories about Dawes tend to write-off the Simon Dawes period as misdirected shoe-gazing. But "Carnivore," though far from brilliant, is better than "North Hills." "The Awful Things" is catchy acoustic Rock and "Have A Heart" channels Dave Edmunds. There's also the joyful "Behind The Bleachers."