2008/05/16 Troubadour; Los Angeles, CA
On the impressive "Asking for Flowers," her recent Zoe/Rounder album, Kathleen Edwards moved toward a more adult, delicate sound. But at the Troubadour on Friday night, the Canadian thrush, probably best known through her contributions to the soundtrack of Cameron Crowe's "Elizabethtown," and her no-nonsense touring band toughened up her sound a bit, moving her from the Joni Mitchell end of the Canadian musician meter toward a rougher Neil Young sound, and making her set all the more interesting for it.
It's a style more suited for a hockey fan -- and makes for a pleasing contrast to her breathy, obstinate voice, which can fall off a note with heartbreaking Lucinda Williams-like vulnerability, forcing her to lean into lyrics such as "you can't shut me up," turning them into emotional cross-checks and adding bite to the new album's 'The Cheapest Key" and "I Make the Dough, You Get the Glory." Like many of her songs, these are narratives of isolation, told in measured, carefully parsed images. They now sound like they've earned their sense of road weariness, of deeper and more pronounced separation at their heart.
A good deal of credit must go to Edwards' band. John Dinsmore and Joel Anderson, on bass and drums, respectively, are a solid meat-and-potatoes rhythm section. They give Colin Cripps, who is also Edwards' husband, room to roam on guitar, turning "Goodbye California" into an epic guitar excursion and "Good Things" into crackling folk-rock.
Edwards is no slouch herself, matching her husband on the scruffy "Run" and adding a lovely violin to the mournful sea shanty "I Can't Give You Up."
Her flinty perf expands the solo reading of "Alicia Ross." An oblique murder ballad narrated by the victim, it's gussied up with strings on the new album, blunting its harrowing matter-of-factness; as the young girl lays dying, she wishes she had learned such mundane facts as her ring size and her father's middle name. Accompanied only by Edwards' electric guitar, the song becomes a stark tragedy.