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Edwards' gift is to make simplicity beautiful. I can't think of anybody else right now who can make a dead-simple, repetitive melody as "Six O'Clock News" work, and work so marvellously. "Hockey Skates" hangs its spare arrangements on a terrific yet basic guitar line, but played with relish. That vocal ad lib which opens "The Lone Wolf", the surprisingly gutsy electric guitar of "12 Bellevue" and the multitracked acoustic strums of "Westby" are all examples of the imaginative yet deceptively simple touches which make the songs great.
The great playing and arrangements on this record definitely help, making the most out of simple country-rock elements, and Edwards' singing is very engaging, often careless of pitch like Neil Young and early Sarah Harmer, but always expressive and fitting to the song.
From time to time, an artist is hyped simply because s/he is better than the rest. Kathleen Edwards is one such artist, and if the media hype helps people discover her music, all the better.
I like to think of Kathleen Edwards as Sarah Harmer's younger sister. They're both talented, young, female, Canadian singer-songwriters (how do you like them adjectives?). They're both working the pared-down songs, with their voices and an acoustic guitar being the main ingredients in each composition. They're both under the same manager. And they're both curly-heads, which supports my genetic theory.
If Kathleen Edwards is Sarah Harmer's musical little sister, she's the scrappy younger sibling. Both singers write about relationships gone wrong, but Edwards' are the sort that probably wouldn't have gone right in the first place, judging from the older men, slick music industry types and general drunks that pop up on her debut album, Failer. And given the frequent mentions of alcohol and bars, Edwards has lived a little harder than her fairly upper class childhood (her father is a Canadian diplomat) might indicate.
Failer is a strong debut album. It sounds like it came from an artist years older than Edwards, who was in her early 20s when it was released. First albums from young female artists are often drenched in pathos, filled with sad, victimized tales of lovers who done wrong and boys that got away. Edwards works some of that in -- she's wanting someone she can't have for one reason or another ("12 Bellvue") or trying to get rid of someone who won't leave her alone with her misery and her beer ("Hockey Skates").
When you consider that Edwards only started writing songs shortly after she finished high school, Failer's maturity is even more impressive. This is one of those rare albums where you don't have to skip a track.Read more ›
All that said, "Failer" is a strong album that falls a tad short of being a classic. Edwards has been labelled at "alt-country" artist in the mode of Lucinda Williams, but she is a rock an roller at heart. Her songs are tough, both lyrically and musically. My favorite moment comes during the song "Westby" in which she sings to an older married lover, "I don't think your wife would like my friends."
The album kicks off with the hummable but harrowing "Six O'Clock News," establishing the tone right away. The next track, "One More Song the Radio Won't Like" can be interpreted referring to the difficulty alt-country artists have in getting airtime or yet another attempt to quell those pesky expectatations. From there Edwards keeps up the groove, alternating ballads and rockers, some of which work better than others. If she can keep developing as an artist, there is no reason to believe that she won't soon be on the level of the likes of Emmylou Harris or Lucinda.
Overall, a strong debut from a young artist who has a lot to live up to.
Edwards has been compared more than a few times to Lucinda Williams, which is heady praise indeed. But she is also her own woman, with an approach that combines alternative country and 1960s-style folk-rock along with stark modern lyrics, and a sardonic sense of humor. There's good social comment on "Six O'Clock News", and a big (but well-deserved) punch to American corporate radio on the ironically titled "One More Song The Radio Won't Like." There is also the use of one off-color word in the track "National Steel" which shows off a true acid side of this new Canadian gal.
Kathleen is someone well worth watching for in the future; hopefully, American radio stations, be they country or adult-alternative, will latch onto her.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I discovered Edwards this year by hearing tracks from this on WFUV in NYC. Fell in love with her voice, songs, and lyrics. Listened then to her other albums, each one wonderful. Read morePublished 13 months ago by anon4utu
her second record is her best (so far), but it's all on its way in this one.Published 15 months ago by Daithi
I've enjoyed every album I've heard by Kathleen Edwards thus far, but this could be my favorite of the bunch. Read morePublished on July 25, 2013 by Donald E. Gilliland
Wow - I found out about Kathleen Edwards late in the game, when the Voyageur CD received so much praise. Read morePublished on February 28, 2012 by B. Bates
I am in LOVE with this band. You will be too. She makes you want to hit the road and follow the band! Really deep haunting vocals that catch you off guard. Read morePublished on September 19, 2010 by R. Brokos
Great twangy rock with a folk element.Full of indie cred.Great lyrics,voice, and band that rocks.Published on May 15, 2009 by Mark Marchand
Kathleen Edwards is the best songwriter I have heard since I lamented the demise of the Beatles over 30 years ago. Read morePublished on April 21, 2009 by MaxVideo