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Kathleen Edwards finally kicks in

The Paradise, Boston, May 10, 2005

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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If rootsy Canadian singer Kathleen Edwards could have played her entire set the way she did the last half-dozen songs, it would have resulted in one excellent night of music.

But it took Edwards, touring behind her strong second disc, "Back to Me," a good chunk of her 90 minutes on stage before kicking into high gear.

While everything sounded good earlier on, one got the sense that the concert was meandering along, heading toward no particular highs or lows.

Edwards mixed it up some tempo-wise, but perhaps reworking the song order would have provided a bit more momentum to the evening.

Vocally Edwards didn't seem to always stay on pitch, veering slightly off a number of times the longer she held a note. And her vocals sometimes were mixed a tad too low beneath the music.

Edwards was ably helped by a band spearheaded by guitarist Colin Cripps, who also happens to be her producer and husband since August. He mixed it up between taut rootsy sounding guitar and more of rock flavor, but he was in check and not given to overdoing it.

Just when it seemed that the concert would be relegated to satisfying, but not too much more, the evening moved into far higher gear with musical muscle and sturdier melodies and singing.

That included renditions of "What Are You Waiting For" and the title track of her new album along with the closing song of the night and her best-known song, "Hockey Skates."

While certainly not a perfect night, Edwards was an artist of merit.

Former Bostonian Mary Gauthier opened with a deep, 30-minute set. Gauthier, now living in Nashville, weaves stories about down-and-outers and living the hard life. "I Drink," also recorded by Blake Shelton, was a highlight.

Gauthier, who seemed not to deal in songs of short length, did several songs in a spoken word style with background music, meaning the emphasis was on the words.

Fortunately for the Louisiana native, her songs are poetry in motion. Guitarist Tom Jutz accompanied Gauthier throughout, adding a lot of muscle to the songs with spare, exact playing that had a bluesy feel. That was particularly true on the excellent closer "Wheel Inside the Wheel," a tribute to Gauthier's good friend, the late songwriter Dave Carter from her new album "Mercy Me."