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There’s something intriguing about a songwriter who was born in Louisville, Kentucky; raised in Branson, Missouri; and settles in Brooklyn. As common a combination it may be these days, I resolve such diverse locales breed a well-rounded musician. Such seems to be the case with singer/songwriter Dawn Landes, who released her third album, Sweet Heart Rodeo, last month.
Rodeo opener “Young Girl” seizes its listeners’ attention, with its gritty energy, catchy chorus, and steady drumbeat. As the album progresses, it quickly becomes clear that “Young Girl” might be its solo rock song, as tracks like “Money In the Bank” and “Little Miss Holiday” highlight the singer’s knack for crafting folk tunes and lullabies dowsed in country clout (although “Love” surprisingly turns from calm croon to psychedelic breakdown). Although Landes doesn’t exactly stretch her voice into wide registers, her unique style showcases her ability to whisper a lulling hush as well as a rock-meets-alt-country wail, a la Tanya Donelly.
Considering Landes is no stranger to the studio (she has worked as both a producer and audio engineer), it’s no surprise to hear such watertight arrangements on Rodeo, woven delicately with her soft vocal melodies. “Sweetheart Rodeo” and “Wandering Eye” offer fun, generous doses of both country twang, but I found myself waiting for another track like “Young Girl” to kick things up a notch; I, at times, felt a bit too snug listening to Landes’ soothing melodies. With that said, Rodeo progresses as a steady, listenable record of pleasant melodies and folk appeal. It winds down with “Brighton,” a beautifully haunting ode to the Massachusetts city, before closing out with percussive electro number, “All Dressed In White,” helping solidify my belief that Landes is indeed, as I called it, a well-rounded musician.
Photo: Heather Conley