Release Date: Feb 18, 2014
Record label: Western Vinyl Records
Genre(s): Country, Folk, Americana, Pop/Rock, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter
When Dawn Landes released Sweet Heart Rodeo in 2010, she was married to fellow singer and songwriter Josh Ritter. In 2011 that marriage -- which lasted 18 months -- came apart. His account appeared on Beast in Its Tracks and in press interviews. Landes remained silent and kept busy as an engineer and performer.
The allusion is too obvious, so no doubt this will seem trite, but Dawn Landes really does sound like a bluebird. Most amateur ornithologists know the males of the species sing the most and have the showier plumage, but the females do chortle also and have their own kind of subtle beauty. Males may flash, but it’s the women that offer the more delicate and perfect charms.
If there’s anything wrong with Brooklyn-via-Kentucky singer-songwriter Dawn Landes’ seamless fifth album, it’s that it’s just too damn nice. With her sweet and airy candyfloss voice, she comes on like a do-gooding Neko Case, and though bluegrass-inflected love songs like the finger-picking title track and spacious ‘Heel Toe’ are undeniably beautiful, they lack a certain grit. She breaks free from the country music head girl mould on ‘Oh Brother’, letting some Southern gothic creep into the languid, swampy verses and assuming the role of an extended member of The Handsome Family.
“Good things comes to those who wait,” Neneh Cherry sings on two tracks of “Blank Project,” due out Tuesday on Smalltown Supersound. Given that her previous solo album is from 1996, the adage carries a weight of intention. Ms. Cherry, who lives in Sweden and will turn 50 next month, has lost none of the borderless flair that made her a standout figure in early hip-hop and postpunk.
Throughout song, the bluebird is symbolic of happiness. Take “Over the Rainbow”, “Bluebird of Happiness”, and errrr, “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”. There’s literary references too: “The bluebird carries the sky on its back”, wrote Henry David Thoreau, and then the general sense of freedom that a bird often signifies – it sends a positive message.
Dawn Landes’ 2008 break-through, Fireproof, sparkled with studio effects and various stylistic shifts, adding compelling but judicious textures to the New York-by-Louisville singer’s folk blues and country-inflected songs. Even if the songs didn’t work, they provided essential contrast. Bluebird does away with the interesting studio tweaks and most of the various styles, and in the process becomes a traditional folkie record with little to distinguish it.