Singer-songwriter survives hype, sings great
if she weren't scrambling all over hell's half-acre trying to sell little compact discs and concert tickets, ottawa's kathleen edwards would be home planting her garden about now. she's a little wistful describing it, talking about the gardening magazines she's reading on the bus these days. she'd be putting in her annuals, her morning-glory seeds, "some groundcover stuff."
and there'd be a cat or two rubbing up against her as she worked.
as it is, the cats are staying at her parents' place - her father, leonard edwards, is deputy minister of agriculture and "agri-food" in ottawa - and the garden will remain barren for yet another summer. when you're in the line of work edwards has chosen, this is the busy season. pretty as a morning glory may be, edwards has bigger crops to tend.
two years ago she first stepped out on the international roots-music stage with her first, alarmingly good failer album. the thing had been a little indie project she'd thrown together with a bunch of her ottawa friends, but fast as you can say "cancon," she was winning gushing praise from rolling stone, no depression and the new york times, had played leno, become dave letterman's fave new thing and was opening arena shows for dylan and the stones.
that's what you call a hot debut.
and strangely, in almost every article about her, edwards was - and still is - being compared to lucinda williams. she isn't at all like lucinda williams. granted, she's female, sings self-penned, rootsy-style music and um, let's see, did i mention she's female? the comparison is lame.
"i know it's meant as a compliment and if they were comparing me to jessica simpson i'd really be in trouble," says edwards, "but i'm getting a little sick of it. i think it's a lazy comparison. people don't realize i've totally ripped off tom petty & the heartbreakers. that, to me, is the comparison. they'd still rather compare me to a woman like lucinda williams than a man who i'm actually more influenced by. it's always the game."
on her current back to me album her two guests pretty much sum up edwards' approach to music. eric heywood was the pedal-steel player for son volt and the quite brilliant benmont tench is the long-time pianist for tom petty & the heartbreakers.
on top of that her producer is her guitar player, new husband and former crash vegas member colin cripps. all bases covered.
it's to edwards' credit she managed to turn in as focused and evolved a record as she did, all things considered. there are some very dark moments on the album but then, that's her thing. when you think this was her sophomore release after a sustained period of relentless hype, of almost crushing next-big-thingism, she's pulled off a fine job.
"hype is really healthy but i also think hype can kill you," says edwards. "like with arcade fire - i'm so happy for those guys. i really love them and respect them and i'm so excited for all the montreal bands that are being hyped as the next big movement outside canada. but at the same time, i think it can kinda ruin your thing where something gets hyped up so much people's expectations, when they finally hear it, are above and beyond what anyone would be capable of delivering. that's the part that can be frustrating."
john p. mclaughlin