Kathleen Edwards – Aladdin Theater (Portland, OR)
Well into her set, Kathleen Edwards’ remarkable artistic promise made itself evident as she threw caution aside during “Mercury”. Down on her knees, back to the audience, Edwards gave one of the quieter songs on her fine debut Failer an extended and noisy workout as she pulled far more emotion out of a guitar solo than you might expect anyone with her relatively modest chops to pull off.
For most of the evening, Edwards faithfully delivered her songs in a solid, if not revelatory, fashion — which is plenty good enough with material this strong. Backed by a three-piece band (Colin Cripps on guitar, Kevin McCarragher on bass and Joel Anderson on drums), Edwards played nine of the ten tracks on Failer, a few more originals, and two curious covers: Black Sabbath’s “Changes” (which she said Richard Buckner taught her) and AC/DC’s “Moneytalks”.
While her stage banter was reasonably engaging, Edwards connected with her singing. Her voice is vulnerable, pretty, strong, honest. And most of her songs are remarkably good — well structured, melodic, with smartly detailed lyrics that simply ring true. The constant comparisons to Lucinda Williams, whether fair or not, at least reflect how high Edwards aims with her writing.
Live, Edwards displays a modest charm that seems far away from Lucinda’s current rock star glam persona. Edwards is more the Canadian tomboy, with her blue jeans back pocket worn and faded from the men’s style wallet within, and two, count ’em, songs about hockey.
Though some have questioned her “authenticity” (she’s a diplomat’s daughter — horrors!), such matters are tedious and beside the point. The songs speak for themselves. When Edwards slowly intones, “Wanna go get high? Mercury is parked outside, under the light. Wanna take me to the parking lot of the old high school?”, you can cynically refuse her if you wish, but it’s a much more satisfying experience to simply go with her.