Fawn Larson, The Sway (Independent)

It’s usually a good idea to steer clear of anyone whose Twitter actually declares them “Americana’s new darling,” but Fawn Larson might actually have a shot at it.

She’s got the pedigree (Nashville by way of Lafayette) and a persona that suggests, stylistically if not lyrically, a cross between Gillian Welch, Sheryl Crow, and Feist. The dozen songs on her debut also cover an appropriately wide range, the kind that’s still expected of an alt-country sweetheart—earth mother, survivor, baby doll, fun date—and she sounds thoroughly real and engaged throughout.

It’s a delicate balancing act: being winsome without edging into twee, balancing country mouse innocence with hard-won city mouse insight, doling out life lessons without depressing the shit out of everyone. Yet these polished but still rustic settings, built around songs almost all written by Fawn herself, allow her to discover her real persona—an angel of mercy worldly enough to realize the fragility of both life and love.

It comes across best on “Miner’s Song,” where she spiritually flies to her lover in the moment of his death, and “The Sea,” about escaping to a new safe home with either her man or her child. (“And I will lay my hand onto your outstretched hand / And I will know that time is short.”)

In fact, the only time The Sway falters is when she plays the sweetheart to distraction. Her cover of Dusty Springfield’s “I Only Want to be With You” is too adorable by half, and her own jazz-mama seduction “Allons a Paris” is so jaunty it’s the musical equivalent of a romcom meet-cute.

Darling she is, but emotional depth is actually plenty attractive to most Americana fans. (Okay, maybe not on Twitter.)