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Kathleen Edwards | Failer (Zoe/Rounder)
With a sleeve photo of a car on a country road, you'd be forgiven for thinking you're in for some twang on this one, but you'd be wrong. Because, on closer inspection, you notice that the car on the sleeve has broken down, and on playing the disc you'll hear more jangle than twang. The first two tracks, Six O'clock News and One More Song the Radio Won't Like have a strong flavour of Neil Young about them, but you'll be reminded of 'After the Goldrush', rather than 'Harvest'. This is down partly to the guitar sound, but mostly to a certain something in the phrasing. Kathleen Edwards comes from Canada - as do most of the female singers we like to listen to - and she gets compared to Lucinda Williams a lot, it seems, but cites Aimee Mann as her big influence. The next track Hockey Skates is a quiet gem, with one of those guitar lines that lodge in the brain, and some fine strings, which Edwards arranges and plays herself. (But judging by the back sleeve photo she can't hem the legs of her jeans herself so she's not that smart.) Our Kathleen has a strong if breathy voice which sometimes wavers in a very fetching way, and she seems not to be capable of writing a mediocre song. This is one of those rare albums where you wait in vain for a duff track, one that doesn't have a memorable moment or a snatch of lyric that catches in your head. It even has a track called Sweet Little Duck which is appropriately sweet and strange and affecting despite being saddled with that title. Kathleen Edwards can do no wrong it seems, at least based on this record. The fact that 'Failer' appeared on a fair few Best of 2002 lists, and will appear on many Best of 2003 may be down to unexplained disturbances in the space time continuum, or differences in US and UK release schedules. Whatever year you find yourself reading this is you'd do well to get a hold of this one.