Kathleen Edwards, Voyageur
Finding both a new companion and herself
The too-obvious shorthands here – given that this album was produced by her new beau Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver) in the wake of her marital split from her longtime guitarist Colin Cripps – is that this is Kathleen Edwards’s “indie rock” record and her “divorce” record. Both may be true, but only to a point, and neither gets to the heart of Edwards’s voyage on Voyageur. Though Vernon has an imposing indie pedigree, it’s not as if his own records are that far removed from the rugged Americana that has been Edwards’s turf up to this point; and for another thing, her albums always sounded more “alt” than “country,” anyway. And so it’s not surprising that the clearest reference-point here is Neko Case, another singer who, like Edwards, has both Canadian and American ties. It’s the latter Edwards sounds most excited about on the opening “Empty Threat”; the cool confidence in her voice as she repeatedly insists, “I’m moving to America,” amid gliding acoustic and electric guitars indicates this isn’t an empty threat at all. True enough, that song relates to her divorce, as do “Change The Sheets” (“and then change me”), the elegiac John Roderick co-write “Pink Champagne” and the wistful relationship postscript “For The Record.” But the record also offers a way forward. Edwards and Vernon harmonize exquisitely on the redemptive ballad “A Soft Place To Land,” and on “Sidecar,” co-written with her longtime confidante Jim Bryson, Edwards exults in finding a new companion after “feeling so lost for so long.” With a little help on Voyageur, she finds herself as well.