Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I'm a Ford Tempo, You're a Maserati

Kathleen Edwards isn’t blessed with a great voice, but she uses each of its limitations to her advantage. When quiet, her conversational tones are heartbreakingly human and intimate – you almost forget she’s even singing since it sounds so much more like confiding. When she belts, however, it’s even better. The way her rounded pipes flatten and swallow up chunks of words should be a detriment, but it only makes her working-class chronicles more heroic. No one would accuse Springsteen of being Van Morrison either. Crucially, and also in keeping with the Boss, Edwards’ words are so damn good that you end up straining to catch every last one, pulling you deeper into the music, something that wouldn’t happen as easily if she enunciated more clearly.

Something plainly poignant or comically hard-bitten or just wondrously quotable jumps out of almost every song on Asking for Flowers, the early album of the year candidate that’ll shortly send me scurrying back to Edwards’ debut (which I was thought was half-brilliant but kinda fell off at the back end) and her sophomore effort (which I missed entirely). “If you look at other girls / working out in the nighttime / I don’t mind but I don’t want to know.” “You tell me that you’re tired / ten years I’ve been working nights.” “Love is the harder times / take it from me.” All of the hilarious “I Make the Dough, You Get the Glory,” and there’s plenty of great stuff in “Alicia Ross” and “Oil Man’s War” that needn’t be taken out of context.

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