Successful Failer

Right before Lucinda Williams released World Without Tears, her label Lost Highway cross promoted Williams with newcomer Kathleen Edwards.

Edwards had played an in-store performance at Waterloo Records during SXSW 2003, and on quick passing, her resemblance to Williams sounded way close.

(When handing out postcards promoting Edwards, I would make a snide comment, “New album out April 8” — the release date of World Without Tears.)

Yes, Edwards’ burnished delivery is as slurry as Lucinda’s, and yes, Edwards performs the same kind of rural music — not quite folk, not quite country, not quite rock, but all of them.

Is Edwards some wannabe knock-off? Sure, if only her own music didn’t stand on its own proverbial feet.

Failer is, as music critics are wont to say, a “strong debut”. It’s also what marketing types would call an “alt-country” album.

The hype which preceded and subsequently followed this album namedropped the usual suspects — Whiskeytown, Ryan Adams, Sheryl Crow, as well as Lucinda. This review can’t say otherwise.

Edwards’ songs deal with much of the standard themes of rural American music — play it backward, and the characters in her songs sober up, go back to their wives and return unrequited love. In fact, “One More Song the Radio Won’t Play” pretty much ribs these same themes.

Musically, there’s barely a single filler on the album. (You could even say there weren’t any.) Edwards works best when she lets her whisper crest into something more forward, as she does on “Hockey Skates” and “National Steel”.

It’s on the faster tracks where the Lucinda comparrisons come into play. On “12 Bellvue” or “Six O’Clock News”, the song’s extroverted demeanor can’t seem to compete with Edwards’ sleepy delivery — which, of course, gives Williams her charm.

Despite any similiarities to other like-minded artists, Failer succeeds in delivering a solid set of songs. Edwards could have sounded like, say, Linda Thompson, and it wouldn’t diminish anything.