With her car wheels on Lucinda Williams' gravel road following Steve Earle to Guitar Town
, Kathleen Edwards' debut has a backseat full of drinking songs, but not in an I've-got-friends-in-low-places way. More like: She's the friend in a low place, at the bottom of a bottle, in a dirty hotel room, on the run, off the wagon, eyes red from smoke and whatever's in the rearview mirror. "Wanna go get high?" the 24-year-old Canadian sings halfway through Failer
, sounding like a grievous angel smoothing out her dirty wings. At that point, it's a perfectly valid question--for her and whoever happens to be listening. By the time Edwards gets around to popping the question on "Mercury," she's already watched her baby's daddy gunned down by the cops on the "Six O'Clock News" ("Now you're lying dead on the avenue/And I can't feel my broken heart"). Penned "One More Song the Radio Won't Like" ("Write a hit so I can talk you up," says the label lout, "No one likes a girl who won't sober up"). And been stuck in the same old bar in the same old town with the same old flame having the same old conversation about everything she's doing wrong ("Do you wish your nose was longer so you'd have an excuse not to see past it?" she asks on "Hockey Skates"). The second half of the disc rides shotgun as her downward spiral continues through bad affairs ("If you weren't so old I'd tell my friends/But I don't think your wife would like my friends," she sings on "Westby") and bitter ends ("Take it from me/Move out on me/I only weigh you down," pleads "Maria"). Depression and obsession sound so heartbreakingly good on Edwards you hope she never cheers up.