Failer – Kathleen Edwards
Zoe Records 011 431 035-2
A first listen to Kathleen Edwards' husky voice, and the name Lucinda
Williams will irrevocably surface. The type of voice dictated by whiskey
shots and despair, insolence and rowdy bar fights. The type of voice which
can spin tales with remarkable authenticity to conceive a veritable
folk/country trompe loeil.
As much as Edwards' voice carries such emotional verity, she never sounds
like a Lucinda Williams clone on her debut release, Failer. Williams,
for all of her pieces about dissolution and inebriation, relishes the role
of giving the middle finger to her wrongdoers. Williams will "change the
locks on her front door" because she arguably did "lose it on a back road
somewhere," and, frankly, she doesn't give a fuck what anyone thinks.
In this manner, Edwards has an element of frailty much like Whiskeytown (led
by a jejune Ryan Adams) circa Faithless Street in her singing and
songwriting than the obvious Williams heard in her voice. At nineteen, Ryan
Adams' drunken slurs of social inadequacy and condemnation in a small town,
all enveloped in reverb ridden guitars and sloppy production, directly links
to Edwards' Failer. The fragility Adams revealed, the line between
swallowed acceptance and bristling contempt, appears to be the same
ambiguous domain enticing Edwards.
Edwards sings of a tryst with a married man on "Westby," mentioning how if
the man "weren't so old, I would tell my friends," or how she "dance[s]
dirty because it turns you on." A tenebrous scene which could occur on
Faithless Street where "if angels are messengers from god, please
send one down to me." What of Edwards' "Mercury", which mentions "wanna get
high?" or the hushed National Steel-led blues of the aptly titled "National
Steel" where Edwards comments "the alienation in your tone, I've got no
fucking clue from your point of view and your time zone"? Again: loss of
hope, which rings of Whiskeytown's early years of mental anguish in a small
town where one becomes "too drunk to dream."
Even the title, Failer – besides being a patent reference to the
album's likely perception by most record company execs – embodies Edwards'
downtrodden perspective. Such ponderous material, complimented by lo-fi
Crazy Horse instrumentation, should help differentiate Edwards from her
alt-country peers like Tift Merritt and Alison Moorer. If anything, she
rocks harder than her peers, and can probably drink them under the table