|Dawn Landes — Bluebird (2014)|
Dawn Landes — Bluebird
♠ Missouri–born, Louisville, Kentucky–raised singer and songwriter who is also an in–demand sound engineer.
Born: December 5, 1980 in Branson, MO
Genre: Folk, Country, Pop/Rock
Styles: Contemporary Singer/Songwriter, Americana
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Album release: February 18 (US), March 4 (EU), 2014
Record Label: Western Vinyl
01 Bluebird 3:52
02 Try to Make a Fire Burn Again 3:02
03 Bloodhound 3:09
04 Heel Toe 3:32
05 Cry No More 3:34
06 Oh Brother 2:58
07 Diamond Rivers 2:28
08 Love Song 4:15
09 Lullaby for Tony 3:44
10 Home 2:56
Album Moods: Bittersweet Delicate Earnest Earthy Elegiac Gentle Intense Intimate Literate Lyrical Narrative Poignant Reflective Sad Tender Tuneful Wry Yearning
Themes: D–I–V–O–R–C–E Introspection Reflection Relationships
♠ Thomas Bartlett Keyboards, Piano, Producer, Sounds
♠ Patrick Dillett Engineer
♠ Norah Jones Piano, Vocals
♠ Josh Kaufman Bass, Piano, Vocals
♠ Shervin Lainez Cover Photo
♠ Dawn Landes Composer, Guitar, Primary Artist, Producer, Vocals
♠ Rob Moose Guitar, Viola, Violin
♠ UE Nastasi Mastering
♠ Danica Novgorodoff Artwork
♠ Arun Pandian Engineer
♠ Catherine Popper Bass
♠ Ray Rizzo Drums, Harmonica, Vocals
♠ Tony Scherr Bass
♠ Jim Tierney Design
♠♠ Based in Brooklyn, but raised in Louisville, singer–songwriter Dawn Landes has been writing songs for most of her life, and already has more than a decade of experience as a professional producer and engineer. After leaving NYU where she studied psychology and literature, Landes began honing her production and engineering skills, working at Stratosphere Sound (owned by James Iha, Adam Schlesinger, and Andy Chase), and at Philip Glass' personal recording studio, before launching Saltlands Studio in Brooklyn with partners Steve Salett and Gary Maurer.
♠♠ Her new album Bluebird was produced in collaboration with good friend Thomas Bartlett (known for his work with The National, Sharon Van Etten, Rufus Wainwright, Antony and the Johnsons, and many others), and features contributions from Tony Scherr, Rob Moose, and Norah Jones.
♠♠ Press coverage of Bluebird will understandably present this album as Dawn's answer to her ex's "divorce record". However, like any great songwriter, she's abstracting her personal narratives enough to leave them open to interpretation and a larger meaning. Bartlett's spartan production keeps the vibe intimate, making it easy to connect with these naked and honest songs which manage to rise above the context in which they were written. In the end, the fact that Bluebird is Landes' way of processing the overwhelming emotions she dealt with after her divorce doesn't matter — there are two sides to every story, and this is hers.
♠♠ “Spectral, languid, and arranged with a light touch, the songs are filled with after–midnight ruminations couched in a dreamy ambiance and centered on Landes’ beguiling, ethereal voice” — NO DEPRESSION
♠♠ “Dawn Landes music sits neatly on the fulcrum between Cat Power and Neko Case” — PASTE
♠♠ “Her compelling mix of alternative folk with instrumental experimentation — on guitar, accordion, glockenspiel and optigan gives her sweet–sounding indie–pop grooves just the right hint of country” — NPR
♠♠ “Landes, a New York–dwelling songwriter who happens to be married to songwriter Josh Ritter, has a honey–crisp style of singing that sounds, on this record, like an old–time bluegrass singer, in the way that Jenny Lewis does — no flash, no showy display, no breathtaking few seconds, when the colored fire suddenly usurps the entire sky and blows the eyes a thousand kisses” — DAYTROTTER
♠♠ “The comparisons to Feist and Jenny Lewis aren't unwarranted. New York singer–songwriter Dawn Landes is a haunting presences in the world of alt–folk experimentalism. Her lyrics mix whimsy with irony. Her faltering voices hints at vulnerability hidden beneath her hypnotic stage presences” — BLACKBOOK
♠♠ “Musically she exists somewhere between Feist and Townes Van Zandt, and her New York–by–way–of–Kentucky pluck is a refreshing antidote to schmaltzy neo–folk” — SPIN
♠♠ “Dawn's songs evoke the landscape of the all–American outback. Her debut album, Fireproof, makes you think of frayed lumberjack shirts, dirt–tracks and the desert sun burning on the back of your neck” — DAZED AND CONFUSED
♠♠ “The Kentucky bred New Yorker specialize[s] in pretty, meandering numbers infused with a back–porch aesthetic and storytelling smarts” — ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY
Review by Thom Jurek; Score: ****
♠♠ When Dawn Landes released Sweet Heart Rodeo in 2010 (recording date: August, 2008 — November, 2008), 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. Bluebird is her divorce record. It's an intimate ten–song set crafted with her characteristic melodic and lyric flair. It was sparsely co–produced with Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman), who also plays piano and keyboards. Rob Moose plays guitars and strings, while Tony Scherr and Catherine Popper alternate on bass. Little more than 30 minutes long, the album is drenched in an airy Americana that allows the poignancy in its songs to resonate naturally. Nothing here is heavy–handed. The title cut's melody and pace are cheery, yet the lyric metaphor contrasts considerably. "Try to Make a Fire Burn Again" is direct. Its lithe fingerpicking, whispering keyboards and understated bassline paint around a stiletto–pointed rhyme: "Don't think I'm gonna understand...Don't you wanna love me all over again...Don't you wanna see me, mistreat me/Try to make a fire burn again." The very next track, "Bloodhound," is midtempo bluegrass dressed in witty, sharp–tongued anger. "Heel Toe" is an electric country waltz about cautiously moving on, balancing desire with vulnerability and openness. "Cry No More," one of two tracks with Norah Jones' harmony vocals and piano, reveals determination balanced by a whistling–past–the–graveyard hope that as Landes sings, her words become the physical manifestation of her resolution. On "Love Song," Jones' piano fills accent the guitars as Landes sings "...I can't count on anything but the day and night/I wanna write you a love song with my life..." The words drip from her mouth clear as water with no unnecessary syllables. Jones' harmony underscores the notion that truth is transparent: it doesn't tell, it shows. On "Home," Landes and Bartlett deliver a waltz to frame a lyric expressing profound loneliness. In an empty room, the singer prays to transcend her pain, all while remaining present for it. Given that this is a frank account of a life–altering event, she delivers these well–crafted songs with dignity and grit, sans excess or self–indulgence. Bluebird reveals Landes' healing process in emotionally raw, delicately crafted songs.
Artist Biography by Heather Phares
♠♠ Bridging the worlds of indie rock, alt-country, and folk, singer/songwriter Dawn Landes has played with a similarly diverse range of artists including Fred Eaglesmith, Amy Rigby, John Gorka, and Rainer Maria. A Louisville, Kentucky, native, Landes moved to New York to attend N.Y.U. and play music. She obtained a weekly spot at the Jack Hardy song exchange and also performed frequently in New York as well as on the campuses of Yale, Sarah Lawrence, Barnard, Columbia, Brown, and course, her own school.
♠♠ In the late 1990s, Landes trained and became a sound engineer; a trade she plies when she isn't recording her own albums. Her work has appeared on albums by Ryan Adams, Joseph Arthur, Hem, Jolie Holland, and Ruth Moody, to name a few.
♠♠ In May 2005, Landes released her full–length debut album, Dawn's Music. Two Three Four, a mini album recorded with members of Hem, followed in 2006. She released Fireproof in 2008, in the middle of her courtship with singer/songwriter songwriter Josh Ritter — they married in 2009. Landes released Sweet Heart Rodeo in 2010. She and Ritter divorced after 18 months. Her next release was the French–language Mal Habillee in 2012. After a year of working on other musicians' projects as both a musician and engineer, she recorded Bluebird, produced by Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman), which was released in February of 2014.
♠♠ dawn's Music (2005)
♠♠ Two Three Four (2006)
♠♠ Fireproof (2008)
♠♠ Sweetheart Rodeo (2010)
♠♠ Bluebird (2014)
♠♠ Straight Lines (2005)
♠♠ Mal Habillée (2012)
Agent: USA: Andrew Colvin, email@example.com
By Steve Horowitz 18 February 2014; Rating: 7
Aural Spider Webs
♠♠ 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.
♠♠ This is nature, not sexism, and saying Landes is birdlike is not condescending. Her voice may be soft but it is strong. Female bluebirds don’t croon to attract mates but to warn of intruders in their territory. It would be a stretch to say that’s exactly what Landes does on her latest release, but not much of one. The Brooklyn via Louisville singer songwriter offers an enchanting paean to “Home” as well as tunes that address the delights and dangers outside. Landes understands that when she walks down to the edge of the woods, she should not enter further, but that doesn’t stop her (metaphorically speaking). Tangles in the weeds mean nothing when your eyes are staring upwards.
♠♠ “The bluebird carries the sky on its back,” Henry David Thoreau noted by in his journals back in 1852. By looking aloft, Landes runs the risk of falling or worse. She whispers in the chorus the stunningly exquisite chorus of a different song, “Don’t you want to see me / mistreat me / and try and make a fire burn again.” She’s willing to put up with pain if she can achieve something higher. Maybe it’s just love, that word that means everything and nothing in the contemporary world. But Landes knows love means more than just words. On another song, appropriately called “Love Song”, she explicitly declares, “I want to write you a love song / with my life.”
♠♠ What keeps Landes from being schmaltzy is the simplicity of acoustic instrumentation and the tensile strength of her gentle vocalizations. She has the aural equivalent of those spider webs they turn into cables to lift heavy objects without breaking. While there is something ethereal about her music, it also has substance and physicality. Consider the waltz rhythms of “Heel Toe” that convey the back and forth motions of sexual/sensual touching and moving together and as a separate partner. Like the wind that blows alluded to in the song, it can be pleasant relief or a destructive storm.
♠♠ The new album’s centerpiece, “Cry No More”, located smack dab in the middle at track five of ten, will garner the most attention merely because of her recent divorce from Josh Ritter, another fine singer–songwriter who works in a similar idiom. The song basically says she’s over the hurt while her voice suggests she’s still in distress. ♠♠ However, finding autobiographical truths in creative works is a silly task. No doubt the feelings expressed are genuine, but a song can only express one small part of a large set of emotions, behaviors, and attitudes. Certainly every tune on this album and every other one she’s written contain references to inner conflicts in a conscious or subconscious manner. Being closer to the bone or the truth doesn’t make it a better song. The ten pieces here provide candid glimpses into Landes that can be interpreted in many ways, just like one can hear the chortle of a bluebird in the woods can make one look around to see what is happening. It does not mean you and the avian creature perceive the same world, but are simply part of the landscape at the same time. Fortaken: http://www.popmatters.com/
|Dawn Landes — Bluebird (2014)|