Dawn Landes is an artist that for some years now has seemed set for a breakthrough. That it hasn’t really happened for her is one of life’s mysteries. With a catalogue of fine albums to her name and a great live reputation, she has built up an enthusiastic fan base, just not in the numbers that might have been expected. However, the world’s loss was tonight Leeds’ gain as the audience filled the intimate, if somewhat dilapidated, surroundings of The Hyde Park Book Club.
To write a footnote about Jonah Tolchin as the support act here tonight wouldn’t do him sufficient justice. Beginning with ‘Mockingbird’ from his debut ‘Clover Lane’ album, Tolchin played selections from each of his three LPs. An equally gifted guitarist and songwriter, Tolchin brought both these talents to bear in a short set that ended with the title track of his second album, ‘Thousand Mile Night’, featuring some breathtaking country blues guitar picking. In between, Tolchin managed to enlist some audience participation for ‘The Grateful Song’ and to persuade Dawn Landes, still in her coat, up on to the stage to add some harmony vocals to the amusing ‘It’s So Hard to Love a Losing Team’. It was a set that delighted existing fans and won many new ones.
Landes began with ‘Bluebird’, the title track from her 2014 album, the audience were taken on a live musical journey that proved to be a very special adventure. ‘Try to Make a Fire Burn Again’ from the same album and ‘Keep on Moving’ from ‘Meet Me at the River’ followed, before Landes then told of how she came to love the music of Jimmy Driftwood before proceeding to deliver a jaw-dropping rendition of his ‘What is the Color of the Soul of a Man’. The unaccompanied song clearly highlighting what an astonishing voice Landes possesses. The catchy ‘Wind and Rain’ followed to also demonstrate the versatility of that voice.
It would be possible to highlight the whole set: there was no drop in quality at any point, but ‘I’m Your Mama’, another unaccompanied song, this time from the 2019 EP ‘My Tiny Twilight’ and the tongue-in-cheek, honky-tonk sound of ‘That’s Why They Name Whiskey After Men’ are worthy of special mention. Jonah Tolchin returned to add additional guitar and vocals for the last two songs of the main set. With nowhere to go, the pair then went through a mock ending and immediate return to the stage for three well received ‘encores.’ Sharing vocal duties, Landes and Tolchin powered their way through Hank Williams’ ‘Lost Highway’ before Landes invited the audience to help out on her rendition of Dolly Parton’s ‘Longer Than Always’, an invitation that they enthusiastically accepted.
Just as all in attendance were reflecting on a near perfect evening, it got even better when proceedings were brought to a close with an almost heavenly interpretation of the Christmas carol ‘Silent Night’. Even this grumpy old atheist couldn’t help be moved by the sheer beauty and genuine emotion of it all. A Merry Christmas indeed!
A big shout out to Nick Hodgson for the use of his cool photos.