Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Reviews:: Kathleen Edwards Asking for Flowers

Kathleen Edwards' song writing ability grows with every release. While her latest, Asking for Flowers, still highlights her ability to mix rootsy hooks with her playful wit, more importantly, it shows how consistent she has become. On the first couple of listens I foolishly thought that Asking for Flowers failed to reach the high peaks of her previous releases, but in reality, it's the simple fact that the record never stumbles that made me think that. Instead of some standout tracks and some middle of the road number, Edwards has written a record that sounds great from start to finish.

The record starts with a bang, as the opening track Buffalo is a dense sounding mix of guitar, piano, steel and strings perfectly tailored for late night drives. Edwards has never struggled with writing big songs, but she really tones down the rock on Asking for Flowers and it pushes the spotlight onto her well written words. She thinks about the little details and the arrangements really sync with her words. It seems like a brief afterthought, but when she is tearing down a useless lover on The Cheapest Key she says, "Don’t get me wrong, hear comes my side" and adds the quickest twinkle of the ivories before cranking the amps back up you get to see how playful she can be.

Edwards, much like another Canadian song writer with impressive chops (John K. Samson), gives personality and depth to her characters, even when they are doing the simplest things. The connection you feel on the stripped down Sure as Shit is immediate, just as it is on the title track. You feel the desperation and hurt of a wife trapped in a loveless marriage. As the songs plays out, you get so attached to her pain that you feel like you are trapped in the room just watching the woman be ignored.

"Don't tell me you're too tired; ten years I've been working nights."

The thing that stands out the most for me is that Asking for Flowers finds Edwards finding a voice bigger than her own; one big enough for her entire country. What does that mean? Well, while Asking for Flowers is rich in Canadian imagery, it also points out some of the flaws we as Canadians tend to sweep under the rug. For every playful ode to Wayne Gretzky (and in turn Marty McSorley) that makes us smile, Edwards challenges us with a notion that everything up North isn't perfect.

While this isn't out of place forsong writers, instead of more anti-government rhetoric, Edwards gets more personal and wonders about the Canadian media and how it portrays different races. Alicia Ross is a sincere portayal of how the 25-year old York native was grabbed off her back step and murdered. Edwards' thoughts about how Ross must have felt during those horrible moments are as emotional as any song you are likely to hear this year, especially when you consider how much Canada embraced the poor girl. The realism she gives to this song is stark and chilling and much like the story itself, you find yourself attached to her lyrics.

"Now I'm the girl's face they will never forget."

However, Edwards turns on a dime with Oh Canada, wondering why there are never headlines or concerns when a black girl dies. While a tragic story like Alicia's strikes a chord with everyone, why do countless tragedies go unnoticed every year? Shouldn't every wrongful death be pointed out, no matter where it happens? Why doesn't anyone talk about how, amazingly, our cities are a mess with drugs and violence and no one seems to care? Kathleen is asking the people who will hear her records to look at themselves and wonder why they aren't worried about the state of our nation. It's bigger (or maybe smaller and more personal) than the policies handed down from above. Even on Oil Man's War, she sings her anti-war sentiments, but gives it heart by making it about a couple moving North to avoid having to fight.

This record exposes so many emotions and styles you can't help but wonder how big Edwards' star will soar. The powerful ballads that offset the rocking numbers; the attachment you form with the characters, even when they do the simplest things. Kathleen might wonder if there is any benefit to heavy rotation our biggest station, but I'm thinking with the amount of play Asking For Flowers will get, it might just be the one that skyrockets her to bigger stages.

Video:: The making of Asking for Flowers

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Posted at 11:18 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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