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Kathleen Edwards gets last laugh

February 10, 2012

Courtesy of the No Surf Review - Artist Kathleen Edwards attempts to adopt a new style in her latest album, Voyageur, but the effort falls a little bit flat. News Editor Wesley Teal weighs in on the new album.

Kathleen Edwards is a frustrating artist. She has proven herself to be a powerful songwriter, yet she never sustains her talent through an entire album, letting the back section fizzle away into mediocrity or worse. Despite making a conscious shift in both her musical and lyrical styles, Edwards is unable to break the trend on her latest album, “Voyageur.”

On “Voyageur,” Edwards takes a step away from the well-worn Americana and Sprinsteenesque narratives that dominated her previous albums in favor of a more adventurous musical style and more introspective lyrics.

Musically, “Voyageur” is Edward’s strongest album. She still doesn’t break any new ground, but she does stretch her sound a beyond the comfortable twang-rock that she has so long relied on.

Lyrically, the album occasionally flounders. The Springsteenesque characters that populated many of her best songs are nowhere to be found on “Voyageur.” They are replaced a little too often by overly simple, repetitive lyrics. “Going to Hell,” which features some of Edwards’ cleverer lyrics, is burdened by an inane, cringe-worthy chorus.

The album opens with the catchy, but vapid “Empty Threat,” which is little more than a repetition of the phrase “Moving to America.” The next track, “Chameleon/Comedian” is a lyrical improvement, but also suffers from a chorus that doesn’t know when to call it quits.

“Voyageur” hits its peak on tracks four and five, which both chronicle the collapse of a relationship. The first of these, “Change the Sheets” may be Edwards’ catchiest songs to date. Her vocals hover over a gently driving rhythm that blossoms into a chorus that is at once joyous and heartbreaking.

“House Full of Empty Rooms” replaces its predecessor’s energy with resignation. Edwards employs a simple, plaintive melody backed by barely-there instrumentation that spotlight her lyrics. It is an exceptionally spare song, even for Edwards, who has an affinity for understated arrangements.

“Side Cars” provides a delightful bit of pop about a burgeoning new relationship.

“Soft Place to Land” and “Pink Champagne” are Edwards’ strongest songs lyrically. “Pink Champagne” is the most reminiscent of Edwards’ past material. On it, her voice aches with weariness as she ruminates once more about a collapsing relationship.

The album closes with the seven-minute “For the Record,” the sort of bland, directionless ballad with which Edwards seems obsessed with ending every album. But the song may provide Edwards with the last laugh as she sings, “So hang, hang me out up on your cross / For the record, I only wanted to sing songs,” a line that may well be aimed at the critics who expect her to be more than she wants to be.

All the same, if Edwards can marry the newfound musical adventurousness with the lyrical mastery of her previous album, “Asking for Flowers,” her next one may be classic.

Wesley Teal
News Editor

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