Monday, March 17, 2008

Reviews:: Dawn Landes Fireproof

This week I'm trying to go with a theme. Shane ran a muck with a Kool Moe Dee week, and secretly, I resented him for having so much fun with it. So, this week I'm going to focus on female vocalists and try to mix up the styles and genres to showcase some great artists. So without further ado:

There are so many easy lead ins for reviewing the new Dawn Landes record. On the surface, you could point out she has that Southern belle charm and the looks to make you take notice. You could jump on the fact she's a small town girl living in the big city, and that juxtaposition is evident throughout Fireproof.

You could talk about how despite having nothing, her apartment was broken into and her only possessions - including her hard drive with the only copy of the her new record - were stolen, erasing years of creativity but led to her writing the stellar opening single Bodyguard. You could even talk about how Landes spends her days recording some big name artists and transferred those experiences onto this self-recorded gem.

But really, all of these things can be combined into a much simpler statement; Dawn knows what works on record and her unique life provides the subject matter to draw you in and fit the sounds she is creating. With the help of a supporting band (including members of Hem - who she records and has a great creative relationship with), Dawn is able to create a spontaneous feel to songs she's played countless times. That's probably because the meat of the record was recorded live in one day, before she trapped herself into her studio and added the finishing touches to make the songs hers, but that spontaneous energy runs through the record.

Fireproof opens with Bodyguard, one of the most up tempo tracks on the record, and the faster folk plays like a Suzanne Vega track and benefit from a crisp drum and a crystal clear banjo line keeping time, both of which give her vocals the space to roam. It's almost impossible to ignore the song, which gives Dawn the time to introduce other styles to the listener. I Don't Need Know Man uses reverbed acoustic, and the slow build is well paced and never overstated. The four-minute track keeps adding elements, but Dawn never makes the mistake of forcing her beautiful voice into the supporting role. The slight release when she drifts into falsetto makes it impossible not to picture her sitting in her studio with the headphones just singing along with the song as she taps out the rhythm on the desk.

Personally, my favorite songs are the ones when Dawn slows it down. The emotion of her ballads exposes a fierce determination that might be mistaken for insecurity on the first few listens. Instead of using big arrangements to force you to listen, she is quite happy to play the back and trust you want to pay attention. Tired of This Life lets Dawn show us that despite the weightless sounds she creates, both her feet are firmly planted on the ground. "Tired of your trying but your eyes weren't only made for cryin. Your eyes were made for seein' things." Twilight takes advantage of Bob Hoffnar's pedal steel to set the tone for the loneliness of missing the simpler life outside the city.

She kind of alternates between slow and steady and a quick shuffle, but each style seems pure. Whether she's trying out a new sound - like the like instrumental Toy Piano that uses just a thumb piano - or changing the feel of the record with an old-time record static filled, funky number like Picture Show, you can feel the love and steady touch she has added to each song. More importantly, you can see how each track on this record has a purpose and is well thought out.

Probably my favorite song is the country fueled ballad, Dig Me Hole. Like all the great country tunes, you want that familiarity and within one couplet, Landes has painted you into a scene we've all been trapped in. "When it's hard to breathe in the city, it's easiest to drink. Come to my house, we'll sit in the dark and try not to think." She's worked with talented people and helped them tweak their sounds, and you'd be foolish to think she hasn't added some of those tricks into her own arsenal, but you really get the feeling that Landes has the potential to share the stage, not just the sound booth with a those big names.

[MP3]:: Bodyguard

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Posted at 11:50 AM by ack :: 2 comments

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At 1:39 PM, Blogger The R.O.B. did sayeth:

Will check this out... I hadn't heard that there was an album. Have only seen her cover of PB&J;'s 'Young Folks' with the 'We Sorta Tried Band' (a group of really old men)... which was terrific.


At 8:39 AM, Blogger c4 did sayeth:

Orphan loved dawn Landes many months ago... glad to see she's finally getting the attention she deserves!


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