Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Kathleen Edwards - Failer (2003)

The press often drops the name of Lucinda Williams as a comparison when discussing Failer, the first release from Canadian Kathleen Edwards who is already a darling of the critics. Edwards possesses a similar songwriting style but has a smoother and softer voice than Williams.

In concert Edwards tries too hard to come across as one tough cookie, but she isn't all that convincing because she is too chatty and friendly onstage, especially when compared to Williams' more permanently dour demeanor. Whether you view Edwards as a Williams clone or not, you must admit she has put together a fine debut CD.

Edwards sings softly and very melodically on one of the album's standout tracks, "Hockey Skates," as well as on the closer, "Sweet Little Duck." She rocks out on the disc's opening track, the radio-friendly "Six O'Clock News," and even harder on "12 Bellevue" and "Maria."

Since Edwards postures herself as a rock 'n' roller rather than a singer-songwriter, her band is an important part of the music. The guitar-oriented supporting ensemble enhances the music, elevating it above the standard "girl with a guitar" fare. Occasionally Edward's voice is buried a little too deep in the mix but this only adds to the rock personality of the CD.

It is Edwards' songwriting that is getting noticed more than her band. Her very literate songs reveal an awareness of the outside world that make her appear much older than her 23 years. "Six O'Clock News" is about a man whose life falls apart "when the farm went down." His pregnant wife laments that he has taken hostages with a gun and has made the evening news. With lines like "They cleared the street and they closed the schools," you get the picture. To show her troubled man she still loves him she sings, "Gonna have your baby this coming June. We could get a little place down by Gilmore Park. You could do a little time and save my broken heart." The very happy-sounding and bouncy melody and arrangement are in stark contrast of the sad storyline.

On the acoustic ballad "Hockey Skates," Edwards sings about the end of a romance that her lover is apparently blaming her for with the line "I am tired of playing defense. I don't even have hockey skates" and "Do you think your boys club will crumble just because of a loud-mouthed girl?"

"Westby" appears to be about an affair with a much older man. "And if you weren't so old I'd probably keep you. If you weren't so old I'd tell my friends. But I don't think your wife would like my friends." Again, this is a story about being in love with the wrong person.

Edwards has been around the block more than most women her age. There are numerous references to drugs and booze, and in "National Steel" she unnecessarily lets loose with the English language's ultimate four-letter obscenity, an unfortunate occurrence that is turning up far too often in lyrics these days. Does she do this just to prove she is a tough broad? If so, it doesn't work. The subject matter of her songs continually contradicts her tough-edged exterior. On Failer, Edwards sounds as if she wants to be grown up and settle down with a nice man, but her basic nature won't allow that to happen. Failer has both the toughness and femininity so many current women rockers seem to possess.

1 comment:

  1. Loved that one and the new one - Back To Me. Check out if you like that stuff plus others in the same genre. It's free!