Highlights: Empty Threat, Chameleon/Comedian, A Soft Place To Land
At the risk of sounding discouraging and frightening off cynics, I’d say that on her new album Kathleen Edwards sounds like the Norah Jones of alt.country (not too surprising, I guess, since Jones is among the record’s guests). Gentle, touching compositions of piano- and guitar-based folk, Voyageur is as poignant and wistfully romantic as you can get without being trapped by sweetness and sugardom.
My major concern prior to listening to Voyageur was Justin Vernon’s (aka Bon Iver) production. Words can’t describe how insipid and bland the man’s latest sounded to my ears, so I had an uneasy suspicion he might splash his whiny mediocrity (that said, I admit to actually loving For Emma…) all over Edwards’ album. Not the case. And for all Norah Joneses of the world Kathleen retains enough artistic edge to guarantee a good, solid listen. The lilting “Empty Threat” is a great opener, but “Chameleon/Comedian” is even greater: a slow-burning ballad with a timeless vocal melody beautifully sung against the acoustic strumming and some brilliant electric passages. Then the piano-based melancholy of “A Soft Place To Land” continues the first side’s perfect run. Sadly, Voyageur does run out of steam after track six or something, when it gets somewhat samey (maybe not necessarily worse), though I certainly do appreciate some timid but successful attempts at rocking out (parts of “Going To Hell”).
As it turns out, Voyageur has a lot more to offer than charm and heartfelt singing. And excellent instrumentation and melodies such as one on “Chameleon/Comedian” do push it to a very high seven. Recommended.