JUANITA Stein’s debut solo album purports to examine America in all its rugged natural beauty and identity confusion; the cover art sees a silhouette of the singer plastered against the backdrop of a dusty road.

Stein – born and raised in Australia before moving to London, and, latterly, Brighton – has enjoyed a certain level of underground acclaim with her indie band Howling Bells but her solo persona brings out her inner country singer.

When she replied to calls for an encore at The Prince Albert by saying: “I can do a Dolly Parton cover”, it was tempting to wonder if she hadn’t played a few already. That’s not to diminish the soulful power of Stein’s music, more to point out how clear debt to Parton as well as Dusty Springfield. It’s difficult to care too much about apparent derivativeness, however, when the songs are as tuneful and well-crafted as Stein’s are. Set opener Florence pays tribute to the subject of Dorothea Lange’s iconic depression-era photograph Migrant Mother.

“Florence you’re a leader, there’s not many of us born,” goes one line in the song, positioning Stein herself as a similarly strong soul. Elsewhere she flexed other sides of her personality, losing herself in wistful reverie on dreamy single Stargazer and becoming a wrathful rocker on Black Winds, for which she was joined by her brother Joel Stein on guitar. The effect of a second pair of strings was thrilling in that case, the siblings trading and interlocking jagged riffs. On other songs, however, it would have been nice to hear Stein strip it down and let her melodies take centre stage (as she had done at an in-store gig at Resident Music earlier in the day).

Stein had to contend with a few moronic marriage propositions early in her set, which she batted off with good humour. Such calls may seem harmless but there is an unsavoury element to them; at best they make for a slightly uncomfortable atmosphere, at worst an air of intimidation (although Stein was unflappable). Anyway, that was a mere unnecessary footnote in a generally immersive gig. While Stein’s lyrical examination of the US might not stand up throughout the entire album, the last track of the night – America – saw a more nuanced approach to the nation’s contradictions.

“You lost your innocence somewhere along the winding road,” Stein sang, before delivering a critique of the national consciousness. “I see desire in your heart/America, you’re close to paradise.”

It’s a half-optimistic, half-ominous line; what is the paradise being sought? Does it even exist? The promised land of solo songwriting is still somewhere in the distance for Stein, but on this evidence she’s on the winding road towards it.