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Kathleen Edwards

Failer – 2003 (Zoe/Rounder)

Reviewed by Eli Messinger

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CDs by Kathleen Edwards

Canadian singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards' calling card is a voice remarkably similar to the breathlessly vulnerable, slightly haggard side of Lucinda Williams. Though she's decades younger than Williams (only 23 at the time of this recording), her lyrics are surprisingly worldly - and frank - whether surveying the wreckage of a failed relationship, giving the brush to an older, married man, or showing off a sharp distaste for the trappings (and traps) of the music business. She echoes the feistiness of Neil Young on "One More Song the Radio Won't Like," providing this year's college radio segue for Young's "This Note's For You."

Much of Edwards' music covers the same electrified folk ground as Williams, but her band also employs louder electric guitars and horns; her fondness for Tom Petty adds a power-pop undertone to several tracks, but never betrays the rootsier focus. Saxophones and twang-bar guitar provide a seductive bed for the post-relationship therapeutic outburst of "12 Bellevue," and the power-chords of "Maria" edge Williams towards Patti Smith. "National Steel," and the confessional "Sweet Little Duck," dial down to acoustic guitars and string backings (together with innovative touches of steel and organ), providing Williams an opportunity to show off her childhood study of classical violin. With this domestic release, Edwards is poised to be the next Americana it-girl.