This review was originally published at GoldFlakePaint.
Kathleen Edwards makes the type of music that makes you believe in your own dreams again. I don’t say that about an album lightly. On “Voyageur” which is her fourth release she seems to have hit her stride. I recently moved across the country to New York, and the feeling of freshness & promise in a gutsy thousand-mile move like she describes on album opener ‘Empty Threat’ is well known to me. “I’m movin to America/ It’s an empty threat” turns into “It’s not an empty threat” on the last chorus of the song, revealing that even empty threats have the potential to turn true with enough bravery. Especially after the heartbreak, loneliness and sadness the rest of the record details, starting with this fresh and hopeful track keeps it from straying too far into despair.
The record does tackle the toughest things a heart must undergo, from the disintegration of a relationship in ‘House Full Of Empty Rooms’, to that relationship that spelled doom from the beginning in ‘Going To Hell’. This tune, especially, is haunting as she reveals “See I’m going to hell/ In a basket I made/ Woven from the letters/ And it spells your name.” Justin Vernon joins her in harmony on this track, as well as several others, adding his gorgeous voice to hers but never overpowering her as lead vocalist or stealing the show. If any artists knows how to bring out the best in others, it seems to be the Bon Iver frontman, who is gaining a reputation for nurturing and helping other artists with their music. Superbly produced by Vernon and often joining Edwards vocally, the record has that extra element of his genius that pops up like an unexpected gift.
Listening to this record can turn almost any landscape magical and the countryside of sound she creates exhibits the telling twists of sound that production by Vernon entails. Those almost animalistic sounding lonely horn sounds woven into the background, brief vocal noise bursts at just the right moment to assault your attention and bring bits of the song into sharp focus.
Her lyrics aren’t intricate, they’re simple and to the point but they are also practically diary entries. We get the sense that Edwards has taken her most private relationships and struggles and bared them for the sake of this record, a feat that requires bravery but nearly always results in a compelling piece of art. The theme of travel reflected in the album title pops up again and again in her lyrics and even musically. Songs like ‘Change The Sheets’ and ‘Sidecar’ travel so far from where they began and discuss so much more than the mundane objects they appear to be based on.
For instance, on ‘Chameleon/Comedian’ she writes about our tendency to turn the most important things in life into jokes as a way of hiding our true feelings, even admitting that her own dalliances in this habit, “I’m a chameleon/ I just hide behind the songs I write.” The sound breakdown that occurs at the end of this track, featuring howling from Vernon may be the most heartbreaking part of the record.
Heartbreaks or high points, I highly recommend you listen to this record. Whether you’re going through a heartbreak yourself or not, Edwards includes enough variety to appeal to almost any mood, and it is well worth the journey.