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CD Review: Dawn Landes 

Fireproof

The Deal: American debut finds Landes succeeding on the other side of the glass.

The Good: You'd expect a studio rat like Dawn Landes – who's engineered with Philip Glass, HEM and Joseph Arthur – to blanket her own material with all those big-board tricks she's learned. But her second full-length and American debut is most notable for its modest finish – a tempo shift from trot to canter, a moment of synth swirl or toy-thumb piano, a clever lyric twist. These subtle embellishments highlight the organic grain in her narratives, whether they're folk, twang or indie pop. She turns the traditional "I Don't Need No Man" into an irresistible gallop hurried along by a brief synth explosion; "Picture Show" is a silly ditty with creepy, Waits-ian overtones until it morphs into a ramshackle rocker; "Private Little Hell" integrates electronica and acoustic elements as seamlessly as Beth Orton. But even when playing it straight, as on the pedal steel-driven "Twilight," the Townes Van Zandt-like "Tired of This Life," or the hidden track cover of Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down," Landes' way with a song is as deft as her studio touch, and her voice is like butter.

The Bad: One or two songs pass by innocuously and register little in the way of heat or emotion. And for those who can't hang with even a hint of twang – you'd probably be better served listening elsewhere.

The Verdict: A real purty record whose charms increase with each successive listen.

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