Dave McGraw and the other members of Crow Wing first met at a party in a cabin in the Arizona desert. A few years later, their firmly solidified band still has the ethos of the late-night, finger-picking jam that started everything. With plenty of banjo, mandolin and steel guitar, their sound is part old-time, rustic country, part modern, up-tempo folk rock. It evokes visions of happy, idealistic music lovers boogying under stars.
While some tunes, like reggae-inspired "Westmoreland" and poppy "Burn" seem cliché, the remaining tracks more than compensate. "Cat Creek" is a joyous romp, while "North Lake Trail" is a quiet love song. The music alone is good, but it's even better in concert with McGraw's thoughtful, well crafted and softly sung lyrics. McGraw sings of common themes, but in a way that is equally romantic and no-nonsense. Blue-eyed girls, whistling thrushes, night skies, trucks and junipers populate McGraw's tunes, weaving a believable, listenable—and somehow distinctly Western—narrative. And when he sings about a life that "makes you want to meet a nice girl, go home and call it good," you believe not only him, but also that such a life exists, somewhere, out here in the West.
Dave McGraw and Crow Wing play the Palace Wednesday, July 14, at 9 PM with Raina Rose Trio and The Tumblers. $5.