When Dawn Landes released Sweet Heart Rodeo in 2010, she was married to fellow singer and songwriter Josh Ritter. In 2011 that marriage -- which lasted 18 months -- came apart. His account appeared on Beast in Its Tracks and in press interviews. Landes remained silent and kept busy as an engineer and performer. Bluebird is her divorce record. It's an intimate ten-song set crafted with her characteristic melodic and lyric flair. It was sparsely co-produced with Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman), who also plays piano and keyboards. Rob Moose plays guitars and strings, while Tony Scherr and Catherine Popper alternate on bass. Little more than 30 minutes long, the album is drenched in an airy Americana that allows the poignancy in its songs to resonate naturally. Nothing here is heavy-handed. The title cut's melody and pace are cheery, yet the lyric metaphor contrasts considerably. "Try to Make a Fire Burn Again" is direct. Its lithe fingerpicking, whispering keyboards and understated bassline paint around a stiletto-pointed rhyme: "Don't think I'm gonna understand...Don't you wanna love me all over again...Don't you wanna see me, mistreat me/Try to make a fire burn again." The very next track, "Bloodhound," is midtempo bluegrass dressed in witty, sharp-tongued anger. "Heel Toe" is an electric country waltz about cautiously moving on, balancing desire with vulnerability and openness. "Cry No More," one of two tracks with Norah Jones' harmony vocals and piano, reveals determination balanced by a whistling-past-the-graveyard hope that as Landes sings, her words become the physical manifestation of her resolution. On "Love Song," Jones' piano fills accent the guitars as Landes sings "...I can't count on anything but the day and night/I wanna write you a love song with my life..." The words drip from her mouth clear as water with no unnecessary syllables. Jones' harmony underscores the notion that truth is transparent: it doesn't tell, it shows. On "Home," Landes and Bartlett deliver a waltz to frame a lyric expressing profound loneliness. In an empty room, the singer prays to transcend her pain, all while remaining present for it. Given that this is a frank account of a life-altering event, she delivers these well-crafted songs with dignity and grit, sans excess or self-indulgence. Bluebird reveals Landes' healing process in emotionally raw, delicately crafted songs.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek