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Kathleen Edwards

BACK TO ME  •  Kathleen Edwards

Kathleen Edwards sings "I've got ways to make you hear me..." on the title track of her new cd Back To Me. How does she make us hear her? Let me count the ways: with a voice simultaneously tough and vulnerable and oddly reminiscent of Neil Young; with a sure hand at both the hook and the meat of a song; with a tenacious grip on the emotional heart of her songs, wringing out every last drop of longing or threat. And that's just for starters.

To my ears, there isn't an out-of-place note or idea on this record. She and producer Colin Cripps stay true to her musical voice throughout Back To Me. The sounds range from raw to spooky, but seem always to come from the ground up, the heart out. Electric and acoustic guitars, pedal steel, nice earthy drums conspire to create a classic americana/rock sound that doesn't feel dated, but addictive, with overtones, again, of Neil Young.

Edwards has a knack for unearthing the defining image, often naming her songs not after a chorus hook, but that image at the heart of her idea or emotion. In "Pink Emerson Radio," she describes many nostalgic items in a house, and the refrain reminds us "There's no time to waste / There's no time to wait." By the end of the song, however, we have a much keener and more painful understanding of those words, as well as the place the pink Emerson radio holds, as her house is burning down and she "can only carry one thing."

There is nothing insipid or shallow in the kind of poignancy that weaves throughout Back To Me. Both lyrically and musically, there's as much darkness, anger, and wit as sadness, leaving the listener in a kind of delicious tension. Do I rock or do I cry? Both are called for, sometimes simultaneously, and if what she says in the title track is true--"I've got moves I've never used"--Kathleen Edwards will keep us singing and longing for some time to come.
• Judith Edelman

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our 2003 interview with kathleen

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