Dawn Landes: Sweet Heart Rodeo
A little too sweet
Let’s say you trust Brooklyn-via-Louisville singer/songwriter Dawn Landes when she says the title of her new album isn’t a nod to The Byrds’ 1968 country-rock classic. Fair enough—Roger McGuinn, Gram Parsons and company certainly weren’t the first, and Landes won’t be the last, to equate the ups and down of life and love to the tumult of a bareback ride.
The real puzzler here is why she chose that title for the most restrained album of her already low-key career. Everything about it is even-keeled: From the synth-pumped admonishments of opening track “Young Girl” to the woozy, world-weary lamentation of “Wandering Eye” (her baby—hopefully not real-life husband Josh Ritter—has one, but she doesn’t seem to care), Landes knows where she’s headed at every turn. Given the wistful penultimate track, with its slow-pulling strings and shimmering flutes, that’s a place called Brighton—a dreamy land of “carousels and mirror lights / a music box that plays all night.” Still, the wooden equines of that merry-go-round are as close as she gets to a bucking bronco. Sweet Heart is beguiling, warm and wise, but it begs for a good kick in the ribs.