Review: Kathleen Edwards “Voyageur”

Kathleen Edwards: Voyageur
By Gerry Gomez
Staff Writer

The best roots songs are so good because of the great stories that drive them. Kathleen Edwards has been writing such songs for years and has been performing them in her own rootsy way. She’s rightfully earned a place on the short list of top ladies in the Alt-Country genre. Others have bestowed that Alt-Country/Country Rock banner on her because she’s released albums over the years spanning back to the hey-day of the genre and her works have been right at home associated with the genre.

“Hockey Skates,” “Back to Me,” “In State,” and “Asking for Flowers” are staples in any self respecting Alt-Country fans’ iPod.  Edwards has lived the life she sings about in her songs, and that perhaps makes her so authentically country: her lyrics sing the truth. On Voyageur, her first album in 4 years and first since leaving her ex-husband and former collaborator Colin Cripps, she bravely moves her music forward from the country musical trappings to a more modern – yet still pure – sound with the help of producer (Bon Iver leader) Justin Vernon and her band mates.

While the arrangements are new territory and not as easy to wrap into, once again, the root of the song being the lyrics, Voyageur is another shining example of Edwards as a self dissecting, soul barring artist akin to the best country artists from the songwriting regard. But beware that this is not a country sounding record.

Kicking off with an uptempo song about moving to America (Edwards is Canadian), “Empty Threat” is the first single besides “Change the Sheets,” that lyrically connects the dots to her previous best work, work that used be be derived from the tumultuous relationship she went through with Cripps. It is however treated with Vernon’s touches that place this song and subsequently the entire album in a pop-rock/modern rock category. “Sheets” swells with pulsing keyboard and a chorus that declares that she intends to start out a new life: “My love is a storm could of broken wills […] Change this feeling under my feet. Change the sheets, then change me.” It is a song among her best work albeit very evolved from that past work.

The album is an emotional document which takes songs from the lows of her relationship breakup to new highs of her fling with now boyfriend Vernon. “Sidecars” boasts gleefully the emotions Edwards experiences with her new love. It’s a nice place to hear her at. “Wake up, wake up, wake up I wanna take you to all the places I thought we could” … “I was feeling so lost for so long, I didn’t know what to do […] You and I will be sidecars” The song chronicles the buzz from a day with a new love and is a album standout.

Voyageur, for its part, chronicles the new path and journey that Edwards is on. It’s an apt title. It’s a new sound from a liberated soul who is allowing herself and her art to grow. In the end, you can take the girl out of the country. You can’t take the country out of the girl.

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