“Voyageur,” Kathleen Edwards (Zoe/Rounder)
Sure, Kathleen Edwards is one of the many low-key, brooding singer-songwriters who cross genres and overshare about themselves via intimate lyrics. But few of them do downcast confessionals like Edwards does on her new “Voyageur.”
The Canadian performer explores the darker side of love with nuances in sound (maintaining a cohesive tone while weaving through folk, pop, blues and alternative adult), lyrical perspective and just-enough experimentation (deliberate, slight stuttering on the vocals, for instance, and infusing the track “Going to Hell” with shimmering psychedelia).
Edwards also paces the atmosphere with shifts in mood and style. For example, after opening with a trio of melancholy cuts — including the wistful jangle of “Empty Threat” (“I’m moving to America/It’s an empty threat”) and the piano-centered/brushed-rhythm-backed “A Soft Place to Land” (“All I want is to hear you say, ‘I’m looking for a soft place to land’”), she drops in cautious optimism in the form of a gently pulsing “Change the Sheets.” Also, after dishing out dirge-like understatement on “House Full of Empty Rooms,” Edwards channels Sheryl Crow in the reverberating rock and hook-happy refrain of “Mint” (“God knows I want you/God knows I need you/God doesn’t know you like I do”).
A few tracks fade in this familiar stew of self-pity, but one that particularly stands out is the gorgeous “Chameleon/Comedian,” where Edwards methodically breaks her listeners’ hearts with hypnotic repetition, claiming, “I just hide behind the songs I write/See me smile/It’s not for a funny joke ... I don’t need a punchline ... every time, every time.”
That sweetly somber song alone makes “Voyageur” a trip worth taking.
Rating (five possible): 4