Kathleen Edwards- Back To Me (Rounder)
review by Joe del Tufo

Track Listing

1. In State
2. Back to Me
3. Pink Emerson Radio
4. Independent Thief
5. Old Time Sake
6. Summerlong
7. What Are You Waiting For?
8. Away
9. Somewhere Else
10. Copied Keys
11. Good Things

Kathleen Edwards’ Failer was the number disc for our Best of 2003 issue. It was a release that was refreshing, surprising, and marked the entrance of a new voice into the crowded singer-songwriter/country/folk scene. She arrived as something of a wrong-side-of-the-tracks Leonard Cohen, attracted all of the wrong men, but gritting it out nonetheless. It was with great anticipation that we marked the release of Edwards’ sophomore album, Back To Me. We wondered if all of the good tracks of her young career had been condensed into Failer (and her previous Buidling 55 ep), or whether she was just always that good.

The first listen to Back To Me was bittersweet. Surely there were a few great tracks there, but there was also something missing. It seemed as though we were being told the stories, as opposed to experiencing the way we did in Failer. Or perhaps we’d just heard them already. Back To Me arrived sounding more energetic, rockier, with a little less of the intimate “how did I end up here?” reflections that made Failer so irresistible. It felt just one step removed.

Repeated listens revealed more of Back To Me’s layers and secrets. The higher production by guitarist Colin Cripps required more deconstruction to get to the meat of the message. Tracks like The Independent Thief, which sounded forced and awkward on first listen, opened up to a more natural awkwardness, if that makes sense. Lines like “I’m this city’s sweet holy thunder- I’m the gold of the drug you’ve been under” and “I don’t want nothing from you, all I need is just some company” began to reveal the levels of emotional complexity that made the protagonist so discomforted.

Colin Cripps’ alternately rocky and twangy guitars add great texture to the disc. From the slide guitar work on Independent Thief through the intricate trills on In State and Back To Me, musically this is the foundation upon which these tracks attach themselves. It gives the disc more of a Wilcoesque feel to them, in a good way.

Back To Me is the biggest deviation from what we’d heard on Failer. It is a romp- a thumping rocked-out opus. Great lines arrive in list form- “I’ve got ways to make you run- My daddy is comin’ for you…I’ve got a way to make you hear me, just by whispering your name… I’ve got ways to make you come, back to me.” It’s catchy, punchy and in-your-face, with Edwards’ lines spat out with more emotion that we thought her capable.

For all of the noted differences, much of Back To Me is still very essentially classic Katheleen Edwards. She is in love with the wrong guy. Sirens echo through the town. Her pink Emerson radio cranks out The Who’s Tommy in mono. Poker faces abound. She is searching for you on the side streets, wondering why you left, why you changed, why she changed, when life became a choice between boredom and inertia. And above all that voice, her voice that somehow imbues all of the hurt and boredom and frustration, the distant echo of the last strand of hope that somehow exists in each spoken phrase. This is the very essence of what makes her music work for me.

Here’s the thing. Was I perhaps expecting too much after the masterpiece that was Failer? Probably. If this were some no name artist would I be lauding the genius of it? Sure would. Is Back To Me going to be one of the best releases of 2005? Absolutely. So take all of my lofty expectations with a grain of red pepper and crank this shit up, cause there are some good ones here.


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mickey simmonds- the seven colours of emptiness
ukz- radiation
pain of salvation - scarsick
icon- icon II, icon live
the pineapple thief- tightly unwound
planet p project- levittown (go out dancing part II)
nosound- lightdark
dengue fever- venus on earth
art of all- morgan
marillion- somewhere else
abigails ghost- selling insincerity
blackfield- blackfield II
damien rice- 9
the who- endless wire
the beach boys- good vibrations
the pineapple thief- little man
the killers- sam's town
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emm gryner- the summer of high hopes
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gps- window to the soul
iron maiden- a matter of life and death
thom yorke- the eraser
richard butler- richard butler
the flaming lips- at war with the mystics
ray davies- other people's live
david gilmour- on an island
nosound- sol29
jackson browne- running on empty 5.1
neal morse- ?
king crimson- 21st century guide to king crimson
shriekback- cormorant
depeche mode- playing the angel
pallas- the dreams of men
my morning jacket- z
riverside- second life syndrome
roger waters- ca ira
various artists- backs against the wall
riverside- out of myself
sigur ros- takk
killers- hot fuss
queen + paul rodgers- return of the champions
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yes- the word is live
emmylou harris- heartaches & highways
van der graaf generator- remaster series
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rpwl- world through my eyes
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