She’s a sweetheart from Kentucky, with warm molasses vocals and killer cheekbones. A rambling rose of roots pop and alt-country in her cowboy boots and Brooklyn blues; a tender-yet-brawny addition to the likes of Jenny Lewis and KT Tunstall. Sure to please, but tough enough and not sellin’ cheap — that’s dawn Landes.

Opening for Jason Isbell (formerly of Drive By Truckers) and Will Hoge at Bowery Ballroom would be a challenge for a less confident lass, but as an experienced recording engineer and hotly-tipped singer-songwriter, this is no sweat for Ms. Landes, she’s already cut her touring teeth kicking off shows for Feist, Rainer Maria, and Suzanne Vega among others.

Leading with a punchy “Kids in a Play” from her highly-touted new album Fireproof, Landes dove right in to her infectious single “Bodyguard,” that recounts the day her Brooklyn apartment was burgled, and the thoughts that came to mind as she waited for the police to come. It is, in fact, her New York City life that imbues Fireproof’s intricate world and confessional lyrics in that lovely, honeyed voice of hers.

A grand, country-inflected “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” was dedicated to the “grandmas in the house,” effortlessly flowed into two more tracks from Fireproof, “Straight Lines,” and an old-timey, atmospheric “Picture Show.” It was all a perfect build-up to the highpoint of the evening, an irresistible disco ball-augmented “Tous le Garrone,” a duet with drummer Olivier, and introduced by Landes as “a little love song…imagine it’s 1962, under a disco ball, and there’s confetti falling.”

Such romanticism can come across as forced from other artists that hinge their performances on manipulative mood enhancers, rather than honest communication and communion with their audiences. But Landes, she’s the real deal in those stompin’ cowboy boots; it’s not an ironic fashion choice. This is a Midwest transplant that honed her craft singing in the cornfields of her native Louisville, loving Woody Guthrie and the innately rich patina of a life lived away from skyscrapers and the din of urban jungle paranoia. The resulting music and candid storytelling is as alive as the empire city that informed it, and as genuine as the small town girl on stage interpreting it, and it’s wholly a pleasure to sit a spell and take it all in.

–Carrie Alison, Photos by Carrie Alison