By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Kathleen Edwards is not a carbon-copy winsome angry waif, in spite of what the tunes on Failer might suggest. True, the songs on her debut are retorts to a world of pain, of sour nights, bitter mornings, hard drinking, bad love, bad music and excess. There are, however, a few things that ought to be considered.
Says the 24-year-old Edwards, "I was in a relatively dark place when I was writing and recording these songs, and I know that I've come through that." She adds, "What makes some of the songs interesting is that they're relatively raw and they come from a young and naïve place."
In the song "One More Song the Radio Won't Like," Edwards sings, "No one likes a girl who won't sober up." But she thinks the amount of interest and degree of assumption her lyrics have inspired are misplaced.
"Actually, a lot of the references to dope and drink in my songs are about people I knew or spent time with. I wrote about that lifestyle and people I'm really close to. And then I go home and they're still doin' the same thing."
Something else to consider: While Edwards evokes a street-weariness, she actually speaks several languages and was raised in Switzerland, Korea and other places. Edwards' Foreign Service father took her and her family all over the world in his diplomatic endeavors, which suggests that she's somewhat more sophisticated than one might assume.
The album itself is equally unpredictable. Some of it is pounding and some of it purring. There are flashes of Neil Young in feedback rockers like "12 Bellevue" and "Maria," and a lot of folkie stuff, much of it bent in the confessional direction of Lucinda Williams.
As it is, the disc has a nice weather-beaten aspect, befitting someone who lives in the wilds of Ottawa. It's touching and smart and cannily crafted. As Edwards reveals in conversation, she's obviously outgrown much of the material on the disc. It'll be fascinating to see what she does next.