Street Sounds: Edwards dives in deep

Canadian singer/songwriter Kathleen Edwards releases her fourth album Voyageur, produced by Bon Iver's Justin Vernon.

Cover of Kathleen Edwards' new album

Cover of Kathleen Edwards' new album

Canadian singer/songwriter Kathleen Edwards’ fourth album Voyageur moves her alternative country sound away from roots rock to a ringing indie-pop production.

Voyageur, which is co-produced with Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), isn’t a happy recording and as such it demands repeated listening to bring deeper appreciation.

The album starts out on a soaring ballad, Empty Threat, a wide and pretty song that foreshadows the mood of the rest of the CD.  This track’s hopeful air is tinged with a wistful and resigned undercurrent that flows into Chameleon/Comedian.

Edwards is reminiscent of Emily Haines (Metric) at times; the similar approach to sparse word play and an unforced vocal presence. At this point the album moves into an autumnal atmosphere that lingers on until the end.

The personal nature of Edwards’ songs don’t use misery as a muse but are clearly an inspired confessional type. This provides an easy thematic flow – the songs fit together and the atmosphere that hovers over them adds a dark, relatable appeal. 

Edwards’ vocal has a soft/strong character. She’s not forceful but she is always concise. The transition from her earlier acoustic-based work to this is a smooth one.

In Change the Sheets and House Full of Empty Rooms, she balances the ringing guitars and oscillations with a vulnerable vocal performance that’s both lonely and uplifting.

It’s not down time, but someone talking gut-level about private failures in public and creating some haunting songs without over indulgence.

–– Dean Gordon-Smith is the Morning Star’s music reviewer. His column, Street Sounds, appears every Friday.