While you’d be hard-pressed to find a satisfactory definition of “alt-country”, Dawn Landes’ recently released full-length, Fireproof, makes a pretty strong case for the sub-genre’s existence regardless. Though most of Landes’ songs are rooted in the folk, country and bluegrass traditions, the Brooklyn-by-way-of-Kentucky songwriter throws enough curve balls that she can’t easily be shoehorned into any one of those boxes. A banjo figures strongly in opening track “Bodyguard” but on the whole, the song sounds more like early Cat Power, minus the cigarettes and booze. Meanwhile, “Picture Show” rides a crackly vinyl sample and warped beat, much like the Eels’ “Novocaine for the Soul”, before segueing into a full-on power pop outro. For all her genre-bending charms, however, Landes is at her best when accompanied by only a single acoustic guitar, like on album closer “You Alone” and the hidden-track that follows it, a heartbreaking reading of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down”.
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