Not alone on her journey
By Mike Joyce
Friday, Feb. 3, 2012
"Voyageur" seems an apt and ironic title for Kathleen Edwards's fourth album. The recently divorced Canadian singer-songwriter has acquired a new beau (Bon Iver's Justin Vernon) and shifted musical gears, transitioning from alt-country twang to a more layered, pop-influenced sound. So she's moving on, right? Well, yes and no.
Vernon, who co-produced "Voyageur" with Edwards, helps create the now shimmering, now swirling atmospherics found on two of the album's sonic treats: "Empty Threat" and "Going to Hell." But you don't need to closely scrutinize the lyrics to know that she hasn't put her pain behind her. Not only is "Voyageur" her most confessional album yet ("I just hide behind the songs I write," she sings on the jangly "Chameleon/Comedian"), it's another reminder that when it comes to breaking up, songwriters tend to have the last cutting word. "Hang me up on your cross / For the record, I only wanted to sing songs," Edwards explains as the album draws to a mournful close.
"A Soft Place to Land" and "House Full of Empty Rooms" are more typical, suffused with heartache and confusion, and sometimes the grief vanishes altogether, as on the exhilarating love song "Sidecar."
Edwards has plenty of company on this emotional journey. Besides Vernon, who plays numerous instruments on the album, Norah Jones and several other guests turn up here and there, providing low-key, colorfully nuanced support. In the end, it's a trip well worth taking, sorrows and all.