Positive Music Place

CD Review: Kathleen Edwards, “Back To Me”

Posted by dlockeretz on January 5, 2011

Sometimes it pays to be superficial.  I originally decided to borrow Kathleen Edwards’s 2005 CD “Back To Me” from the local library because I thought she looked hot on the cover photos.  However, what I found was a record that has moved me as much as anything I’ve heard in the last few years.

Kathleen Edwards was 26 when she made this record; about the same age as Britney Spears was when she released “Womanizer”, and younger than Fergie was when she was singing “My Humps.”   Her songs, which might be described as “alt-country” or “roots rock”, have a similar spirit to those of her countrywoman Joni Mitchell.  However, while Mitchell’s songs often have a sense of optimism about the future, or at least a sense of having learned from and made peace with a loss or change, Edwards’s have a bleakness that is hard to ignore.  She doesn’t wrap her stories up in nice, neat little packages, yet they all feel complete.

The starkness is particularly evident in slower songs, such as the third track, “Pink Emerson Radio”, in which material possessions take on new meaning after a disastrous event.  Other songs also hit the mark: “Old Time Sake” manages to capture the melancholy feel of a meaningless hookup with an ex, without being melodramatic or bitter.  “Away”, with just acoustic guitar, tells the story of a woman trying to re-enter society after…well, you can guess what the title is a euphemism for.   The song’s protagonist comes across as a young, inexperienced girl who simply had a lapse in judgment, rather than being a hardened, calculating criminal.

The uptempo material is strong as well.  “Summerlong” shows a sense of hopefulness, while “Somewhere Else” and “Copied Keys” have a restless feel.  The hard-rocking “What Are You Waiting For” proves that when it comes to using profanity in a song, quality is more important than quantity.

The musicianship and production on the record are solid; it has a contemporary, fresh sound while paying homage to the past.  Quite simply, this is the type of record that I just wish could be made more often.

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