tue 23/07/2024

Kathleen Edwards, Oran Mor, Glasgow | reviews, news & interviews

Kathleen Edwards, Oran Mor, Glasgow

Kathleen Edwards, Oran Mor, Glasgow

An unforgettable night of high intensity and raw emotion from the Canadian singer-songwriter

Kathleen Edwards: 'the sensual rasp of the late night gin-drunk'

Accompanying herself with the violin she hung from the mic stand, the Canadian songwriter Kathleen Edwards performed “Goodnight, California” - the last track from her 2008 album Asking For Flowers - in the sensual rasp of the late night gin-drunk. The song is a sprawling, beautifully-realised portrait of loneliness, and the tightness of Edwards’ backing band only increased its eerie claustrophobia.

To her right, the imposing presence of long-time collaborator Gord Tough covered for Edwards as she switched to guitar, and together their instruments squealed and dueled their way through an instrumental interlude that thundered like the end of the world. Never mind the musicians; when it stopped the audience felt breathless. For any other artist this would have been a showstopper, but Edwards was only five songs in.

When you’ve followed an artist through a career that has spanned more than a decade and five Americana-influenced albums (of which Justin Vernon co-production Voyageur, released last month, is the latest) a certain conceit develops. You come to see that person almost as a friend, somebody whose words have described your own heartbreaks, even if you have never met her. Voyageur’s back story - the painful divorce from producer Colin Cripps, the new relationship with an indie darling - coloured so much of the album’s pre-release publicity that it’s impossible not to let it affect your perception of the music. But at the same time this performer is different to the Kathleen Edwards of before, with her tough-girl persona and wicked sense of humour.

If these new songs were never intended to be personal, the songwriter is a bloody good actress

"Sometimes, when you write songs you later wish you hadn’t, because you realise you’ve written down all your mistakes and now you have to tell people about them,” she said, introducing “House Full of Empty Rooms” - perhaps one of the most intimate tracks from Voyageur (all 10 album cuts made an appearance at some point during the show). She wrote this song on her last night in the marital home she had loved so much, she explained, lying on the bare floor and thinking about how you can never predict the future. There was a rawness to her vocal delivery, the hint of a tear - and more than a hint from myself, down the front and struggling to contain my emotions. “And then I burned the fucker down,” she concluded with a wicked smile, and there was the Edwards I remembered, mischievous and rocking out to a wall of skanky-sounding guitars on the title track from sophomore release “Back to Me”.

There weren’t many nods back to previous releases, but the new material was performed so beautifully by a band expert in reading one another’s cues that it already sounded familiar. “Hockey Skates”, from debut Failer, was recast haunting and intimate on an empty stage with only Edwards’ gold-flecked acoustic for company, while “12 Bellevue” and “In State” were rocked-out and danceable. By popular demand she closed a curtailed encore, limited by the venue’s hours, with her first single “Six O’Clock News” and in a way it was a blessed relief, the country music tragedy of its pregnant heroine who sees her lover gunned down by police in a high school playground noteworthy for its fiction.

“I’m a chameleon,” Edwards sings on new album cut “Chameleon Comedian”, “I hide behind the songs I write.” It’s funny because, if these new songs were never intended to be personal, the songwriter is a bloody good actress. Even “Asking For Flowers”, an older song written around the time of a friend’s divorce, seemed to take on a new poignancy while emotions I could only guess at flitted across the songwriter’s face. Mistakes retold in public they may have been (even if those mistakes are not always predictable - the metaphors on “Pink Champagne” are not about marriage so much as “a night I barfed my guts up on the streets of Calgary”), but they are mistakes it is a privilege to eavesdrop on nonetheless.

For any other artist this would have been a showstopper, but Edwards was only five songs in


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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