From Louisville to New York, it's been a good move for singer-songwriter Dawn Landes

Contributing Music WriterAugust 7, 2014 

Singer-songwriter Dawn Landes headlines the Well Crafted bill on Friday night.

  • If You Go

    Well Crafted

    What: Music and beer festival featuring Dawn Landes and Ben Nichols

    When: 6:30 p.m. Aug. 8, noon Aug. 9

    Where: Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, 3501 Lexington Rd., Harrodsburg

    Tickets: $30 Aug. 8, $20-$60 Aug. 9, $80 both days

    Call: 1-800-734-5611.

    Online: Shakervillage.org, Dawnlandes.com

  • musical lineup

    Here is the full performance lineup for the inaugural Well Crafted festival.

    Aug. 8, Meadow View Barn

    6:30 p.m.: Small Batch. A collective featuring some of Lexington's finest players and singers taking on a blend of bluegrass, folk and Americana.

    7:30: Great Peacock. The Nashville duo of Andrew Nelson and Blount Floyd traded in formative electric sounds for music they call "simple, poppy and infectious."

    8:30: Coralee and the Townees. Proudly proclaiming its music as honky-tonk soul, Coralee and company are one of Lexington's flagship bands.

    9:30: Dawn Landes. The Louisville-turned New Yorker headlines with a Lexington-based duo she has dubbed The Kentucky Gentlemen.

    Aug. 9, West Family Lawn Main Stage

    Noon: Kelsey Waldon. Reared on country and Kentucky roots music, this Nashville-based songstress released her first full length album, The Goldmine, in June.

    1 p.m.: Wooden Wand. Wooden Wand is the working alias of native New Yorker, folk journeyman and current Lexingtonian James Jackson Toth.

    2: William Tyler. A highlight of the 2012 Boomslang festival, Tyler is a distinctive indie roots guitarist from Nashville whose credits run from Lambchop to Charlie Louvin.

    3: Adam Faucett. Hailing from Little Rock, Ark., Faucett favors a style of raw folk-blues and a narrative love of characters that likely dwell in the rural outskirts of Arkansas.

    4: John Moreland. Applying a punk aesthetic to folk reflections of his native Oklahoma, the guitarist has toured with the likes of Lucero and Jason Isbell.

    5: Freakwater. Returning to the area for the first time in ages is the Louisville-Chicago alt-country duo of Janet Beveridge Bean and Catherine Irwin.

    6: Tyler Childers. The Appalachian tales of the Lexington-by-way-of-Paintsville songster have been compared to the music of such fellow statesman as Sturgill Simpson.

    7: Austin Lucas. Born of folk lineage and with a punk rock tenure behind him, Lucas today packs the dour folk songs of his 2012 New West album, Stay Reckless.

    8: Ben Nichols. The vocalist is frontman for the road warrior roots band Lucero. Expect many of the styles favored by that champion Memphis troupe, but in a quieter mix.

    Aug. 9, Pops Resale Local Showcase Stage

    12:45 p.m.: Those Crosstown Rivals. A seven-act bill of Lexington artists blasts off with this Southern Replacements-style cowpunk quartet.

    1:45: Egon Danielson. Drawing on folk and roots country inspirations and his own travels through the West, Danielson is promoting a new album, Raven and the Bluebird.

    2:45: Ancient Warfare. The all-female group thinks indie but favors the psychedelic with songs led by the stirring voice of Echo Wilcox.

    3:45: Doc Feldman. A songwriting ally of Wooden Wand, Feldman released the self-described "heartfelt and sparsely adorned" album Sundowning at the Station in 2013.

    4:45: Bear Medicine. Favoring a calmer vibe, Bear Medicine blends cello, percussion, flute and Joshua Wright's contemplative singing.

    5:45: Josh Nolan. A Stanton native with a punk rock past, Nolan showcases a glossary of pop and Americana accents on his recent Fair City Lights album.

    6:45: Warren Byrom. He is a song stylist for all occasions, whether playing bluegrass with Small Batch or digging to rootsy grooves with the Fabled Canelands.

When Dawn Landes told her family she wanted to leave Louisville to pursue musical interests in New York, she was greeted with perhaps understandable bewilderment.

"My parents thought I was crazy, because I had never been in New York before," she says. "Well, I went there once with my high school choir. But I just wanted to go there. I don't know why. Maybe I saw a movie or something. I thought New York was the place to go."

Since the relocation, Landes, 33, has released a string of critically lauded albums; toured with high-profile pals including Bryan Ferry, Ray Lamontagne and Andrew Bird; scored a few films, and sang at the New York City Ballet.

But for the summer, Landes has returned home. If anything though, her work schedule will be even crazier. Aside from numerous regional gigs, including a headline slot at Friday night's portion of the inaugural Well Crafted festival, she cut a new covers EP at Lexington's Shangri-La studio with producer Duane Lundy.

There is also the matter of the musical Landes is writing. The project is based on A Pearl in the Storm: How I Found My Heart in the Middle of the Ocean, the autobiography of fellow Louisvillian Tori Murden McClure, the first woman to successfully row solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

"I have never done anything like this before," Landes says of the project. "Usually when I'm inspired, I'll write a song about whatever. But I'm kind of treating this as a math problem. You have point A and you have to get to point B, and in there you have to say this, this and this. It's challenging, it's difficult, but I really like it.

"I'm working with a guy in New York, Danny Goldstein, who is writing the libretto. I'm writing all the music and lyrics. Our first reading is scheduled for Aug. 28 in New York, and that's going to have actors reading all the parts."

The musical continues an already fruitful year for Landes. In February, she released a lovely folk- and Americana-accented album, Bluebird, which was born out of less than sunny times.

"Well, this was a difficult record to make because it was kind of an emotional time for me," she says. "I had a relationship fall apart. That's never fun. I was kind of spinning in the universe and not really sure what I wanted to do artistically, either. I recorded a bunch of songs but realized I didn't like them. It wasn't the right direction, so I scrapped everything. That's always hard to do when you invested a lot of time and money into something to say, 'That's not what I want to do.'"

Enter friend Thomas Bartlett, who produced, played keyboards and helped guide the album to completion.

"I've never had a producer on an album of mine," Landes says. "I've always done that myself. So this was great. It allowed me to not be in full control the entire time. Most of the songs were recorded live, so I was busy playing guitar and singing, and not worrying so much about stuff."

It's also a testament to Landes' now-settled place in the expansive New York music scene that among those who contributed to Bluebird is Norah Jones.

"That was really wonderful. I had known her for a little while just socially, and I knew she liked my music," Landes says. "So she came down and played piano on a track and ended up singing on a few songs. It was so amazing watching her respond to the music."

Read Walter Tunis' blog, The Musical Box, at LexGo.com.

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