Kathleen Edwards — Voyageur. Out 1/17, Zoe Records.
When I fell in love with Kathleen Edwards, between Back to Me and Asking for Flowers, it was on the strength of her songwriting: I am tired of playing defense and I don’t even own hockey skates, or asking for flowers is like asking you to be nice. And after that, it was on the strength of the wild, wide open arrangements — the guitars ringing out and the imperfections in the sounds, sometimes.
The thing is, I think that Voyageur is, in fact, a very good album — it’s Kathleen’s strongest songwriting (i don’t need a punchline from “Chamleon/Comedian” is staggering) ever, but. But. I don’t necessarily think that the arrangements — the production of the arrangements, even, I don’t think it always, in every case, suits Kathleen’s songs. It’s hard for me to write that and feel objective, because I’m been pretty vocal about the fact that I am, ah, Not Fond of the music that Justin Vernon makes as Bon Iver. Not his songwriting — I think he’s a bit of a songwriting genius. I just fucking hate that sound of his music.
And I hear those fingerprints all over Voyageur, and it’s a bit hard for me. I love the songs; “Empty Threat” and “A Soft Place To Land” are both stunningly perfect examples of why Kathleen Edwards should have been famous long ago, as they’re exactly in line with the things I’ve always loved about her. I love the spaces in the songs where the wailing guitar comes through, or where the production serves the song, and there are places it does that: like on “Change The Sheets”, where the muted electronica and simple drums, the shivering wordless background vocals, they’re there to show of the wail of Kathleen’s amazing voice.
I think that Voyageur is a great album; I know it will never be my favorite album that Kathleen has made. Objectively, it is exactly as shimmering as Asking for Flowers; but it doesn’t have the sound I want. I respect, absolutely, the choice of the artist to change the way they sound, to grow and mature and move in different directions. I do. But this album, this album doesn’t suit me quite the way I’d hoped it would, and that’s subjective, which I’m also allowed to be.
Does this mean I’m not thrilled to see Kathleen at the Cradle a week from tomorrow? Oh, hell, no. I am off the rails excited about that, you can’t even know. I think that Voyageur is great, like I said, and just because it is not my great doesn’t mean that Kathleen shouldn’t be selling the place out. Cat’s Cradle, 1/31, doors 7, show 8, $21/$23. Hannah Georges opens. You should be there, because Kathleen is supremely talented.