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Kathleen Edwards: Failer


Kathleen Edwards

Album: Failer
Label: Zöe/Rounder

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The kind of album made when heartbreak and whiskey combine with raw talent, singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards' album-length debut Failer takes a hard look at a long, dark stretch of days and rescues from them a kind of hard-won nobility. "Wanna take me to the parking lot of the old high school?" Edwards asks on "Mercury," a slow-swelling song about cheap thrills that's less about self-abasement than desperate attempts to feel alive. That frame of mind is common to many of Failer's darkly seductive tracks, which sound like postcards from rock bottom reading "Wish You Were Here." Edwards comes from Canada, but it must be the part of Canada that, figuratively at least, shares a border with the U.S. South—her music is steeped in the sounds of unvarnished blues and country music. Comparisons to Lucinda Williams have followed her from the start, and the resemblance can be uncanny at times, even though Edwards claims only a passing knowledge of Williams' work, having arrived at a similar place by way of Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Whiskeytown. Whatever the similarities, there's no suggestion that Edwards is anything other than an original talent, and a formidable one at that. Failer opens with the catchy "Six O'Clock News," and it might take a couple of listens to discern the tragedy beneath its surface. But then, tragedy (or its possibility) always seems to be lurking somewhere in these songs. Even the sweet-sounding "Hockey Skates" reveals itself as a song of resignation, about "going down in the same old town, down the same street to the same old bar" and finding no comfort in the familiarity, only the promise of a bad end. "No one likes a girl who won't sober up," someone warns the protagonist of "One More Song The Radio Won't Like," shortly after admonishing her to write a hit single, already. If Failer offers any indication, years of hitless, drunken misery and musical greatness await Edwards.