DAWN LANDES – Bluebird

Album: Bluebird

Artist: Dawn Landes

Label: Western Vinyl

Release Date: February 18, 2014

Dawn Landes 2-18

www.westernvinyl.com

BY JOHN SCHACHT

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. Strings provide what momentary color there is here, and not always to strong effect. A chorus accented with syrupy strings undermines the title track’s pretty finger-picked guitar patterns, while pizzicato and bowed strings add to the maudlin sentiments—“Diamond rivers run in streaks down my lover’s cheeks” — of the piano ballad “Diamond Rivers.”

Sadly, that mawkishness is the dominant takeaway here. This is an unabashed break-up record, chronicling the aftermath to Landes’ relationship with fellow singer-songwriter Josh Ritter in 2012. But where the best break-up records —Blood on the Tracks, Rumours, even last year’s Muchacho from Phosphorescent — capture their roiling stages-of-grief emotions musically, Bluebird muddles along at the same tepid, resigned pace from front-to-back and quickly overstays its welcome.

That lack of dynamism even undercuts the LP’s better songs. The Appalachia flavor of “Oh Brother” adds strings in a more compelling fashion, and the track —sounding like a Gillian Welch ballad—reminds us of Landes’ songwriting skills. Landes also nails “Love Song,” where guitars and piano mesh to provide a luxurious bed of country folk, and “Heel Toe,” which tilts toward the blues with sparse electric guitar shaded with even sparser keys.

But these are lonely outposts in a landscape without distinction, where the most depressing aspect isn’t what happened to Landes and Ritter, but what happened to Landes’ songwriting. 

DOWNLOAD: “Oh Brother” “Heel Toe”

 

 

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