Candid observer fashions pretty tunes to illuminate the abyss
There’s nothing careless about Kathleen Edwards. Her thoughtful sagas of ordinary people in tight spots could be the pop-music version of fellow Canadian Alice Munro’s brilliant, spare short stories. More stubborn than sensitive Edwards’ graceful, no-frills singing reveals a desire to make every syllable matter. Even the jokes glow with the aura of hard-earned experience. On this mesmerizing third album, she’s mostly outgrown the obvious Lucinda Williams and Neil Young comparisons (the Crazy Horse-channeling “Oh Canada” aside), using her lustrous folk-rock melodies to dull the sting of her unsentimental tales. Edwards calls herself “a walking declaration of everything I couldn’t get right” on the shimmering title track, a clear-eyed look at dead-end romance, and she captures the anxiety of lovers fleeing familial and social strife with the anthemic “Oil Man’s War.” Just when it seems she is headed for terminal despair, Edwards produces tender masterpiece “Sure as Shit,” and for a moment the hurt melts away-- at least for a moment.