albums this impressive make you wonder where the artist has been
hiding. With "Failer," distributed on Rounder Records'
boutique Zoe imprint, Kathleen Edwards is born wholly formed, with
a distinctive style, a pleasing voice and polished skills that
immediately put her in the ranks of such established artists as
Kasey Chambers, Shawn Colvin and -- dare we say it? -- a happy
We're not alone in this belief: Edwards's band clearly is inspired by the
material despite the singer's unknown status. Electric guitarist Jim Bryson
supplements her acoustic rhythms with tight, tasteful rock-flavored melodies;
the countryish rhythm section of drummer Dave Dudley and bassist Kevin McCarragher
never overpowers the vocals, which are firm in delivery but delicate in intent.
While the melodies have excellent melodic hooks, it's the brazen lyrics
that impress the most; Edwards writes unapologetic, to-the-point poetry intended
to demolish the unlucky guy trying to break up with her ("The Lone Wolf," "Sweet
Lil' Duck"). "Hockey Skates," the only allusion to her Canadian
origin, is a pretty ballad with bitter imagery; "Six O'Clock News," which
bounces along on a contradictory rootsy beat, devastates upon second listen
-- it's about a young pregnant woman singing to her slain lover; "Westby," about
a lurid affair, has the penetrating line "And if you weren't so old
I'd tell my friends, but I don't think your wife would like my friends." Ouch.
There couldn't be a more ironically incorrect name for the album. "Failer" is
- Buzz McClain,