Failer

Kathleen Edwards

Zoe Records, 2003

http://kathleenedwards.com

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/07/2004

Critics aren't nice when it comes to album titles. Hell, look at Michael Jackson's Invincible; most rock critics built their review around dissing the title. That said, much credit needs to be given to Canadian singer/songwriter Kathleen Edwards for naming her debut album my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Failer.

Other than the title, Failer is fairly critic-proof. It has that Neil Young/Lucinda Williams-type of alt-country sound that many journalists are currently swooning over, Edward's voice has a battered maturity that's beyond her youth (she was 23 when Failer was recorded) and it's ambitious enough to merit repeat listens. In interviews, Edwards compares herself more to Aimee Mann than Lucinda Williams. But her weary voice immediate draws comparisons to Williams.

"Hockey Skates" is getting some decent rotation in some markets. Set in a backdrop of a depressed town, the protagonist is in a crappy relationship. You can almost see the broken stools at the bar the way she paints the scene. However, she overreaches in the metaphor department with lines like "I am tired of playing defense / I don't even have hockey skates" -- which she unfortunately repeats.

Lyrically, Edwards sticks to portraits of people on the losing edge of life. And though Failer may spend the majority of its time on the dark side, uptempo tracks like "Six O' Clock News" and "The Lone Wolf" add some much-needed variety. She wisely saves her best song for the last track. "Sweet Little Duck" is perhaps the saddest song I've heard in the past two years.

Dismissing Failer as "another alt-country" album is a disservice to anyone who picks this album up. Her voice and lyrical potential merit her place in Rolling Stone's new artists to watch article. It may not shake the ground like a classic debut album is supposed to, but its subtle rewards pay off big time.

Rating: B

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© 2004 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Zoe Records, and is used for informational purposes only.