The Washington Post

Endings as New Beginnings

Kathleen Edwards’ ‘Voyageur’ explores uncharted territory

Kathleen Edwards enlisted the help of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon for her new album.

Singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards’ new album could easily have been a breakup record. It would have surprised no one if “Voyageur,” her first album since divorcing longtime collaborator Colin Cripps, turned out to be an examination of where things went wrong.

“When you’re married and then you’re not, there’s a sense of failure,” Edwards says. “You feel there’s something flawed about yourself.”

But an unforeseen thing happened between the time Edwards split from Cripps in 2010 and then finished “Voyageur” last April: She started working with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. Their friendship blossomed over email and quickly grew into a working relationship, with Vernon co-producing the record.

Before “Voyageur” was finished, the two were dating. “I think the more we got to know each other, the more I was, like, ‘You’re [expletive] awesome,’” she says.

Edwards went into the record wanting to experiment, and Vernon, a longtime fan of her work, helped the Toronto-based singer stretch beyond the folky twang of her first three albums.

“I didn’t want to make a record that didn’t sound like me,” Edwards says. “I was open to trying anything. But when you take on that frame of mind, there’s such a huge element of trust because it’s not like I’m writing songs that are just fluff.”

The result is that “Voyageur” feels like a dispatch from the new state of Kathleen Edwards. “All these songs are not about just two people: the person I was with and the person I’m with now,” she says. “It really is about being at a certain place in your life and really taking a hard look at where you’ve been and where you want to go.”

9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW; with Hannah Georgas; Fri., 7 p.m., $22; 202-265-0930. (U Street)
Rudi Greenberg is Express' Weekend Pass editor and comedy columnist.

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