Album: Dawn Landes – Sweetheart Rodeo

Reviews for Dawn Landes’ previous album Fireproof tended towards the “nearly there, give her a year or two” end of the spectrum. The pressure was on: would Landes deliver? Well, probably not, but maybe we’ll give her another year or two. This is a really decent set of songs packed full of interesting sounds, but it doesn’t quite gel as an album.

One reason that it doesn’t gel is that the album keeps changing direction and styles. Now, I’m not one for tying people into genres but the transition from the country ballad of ‘Money in the bank’ to the Zappa-esque ending of ‘Love’ is pretty tricky to settle into. But it seems churlish to complain about too much inventiveness.

Before signing a deal, Dawn Landes spent a long time learning from masters in recording studios all over New York. From the production of the album and the song arrangements it’s clear that this has paid off. Not only does Landes have a lovely voice but she knows how to use a studio and band to marshal all her ideas.

My main criticism would be that the album often feels like its being quirky without really knowing why. Why use an electronic drum machine when you’ve got a perfectly cool drummer? Landes may argue that tinny 80s drums and a Casio keyboard were the best sound for the particular song (‘Clown’), I thought they were distracting.

What shines through is a talent and passion for songs and making music. This is a really refreshing, good album. Hopefully, in a few years we’ll be marking it as a stepping-stone to a classic…

Words: Paul Malloy