Kathleen Edwards- Northampton, MA (07.21.10)

Kathleen Edwards is one of my favorite singer-songwriters. Though sometimes dismissively lumped in with Tift Merritt, Allison Moorer, and other female alt. country singers, she has released 3 overwhelmingly consistent and great albums. With a penchant for writing songs that seems to write themselves and a sound that makes the alternative country genre sound like it never died, she is one of the hidden gems of Americana music today. While each of her first two records had their highlights, 2008’s Asking for Flowers is probably her best record. Produced by the well pedigreed Jim Scott (Tom Petty, Whiskeytown), the album featured Edwards on piano for the first time and ran the gamut from slow burners to full bodied rockers.

Two years removed from Asking for Flowers, Edwards has toured sporadically in 2010 , but her only U.S. dates have been a short NE run that included a co-headlining bill with the legendary Alejandro Escovedo in Northampton, MA at the Calvin Theatre. The two songwriters also did acoustic sets at a local farmer’s market that afternoon, but I was ignorant of such plans at the time. However, I did make it to the Calvin.

Edwards played first with a four piece backing band that included guitarists Jim Bryson and Gord Tough (the latter of whom reminded me of Wilco’s Nels Cline in both appearance and sound). The two traded licks and displayed a wide versatility. Bryson also contributed keyboards to a couple songs, as the rhythm section of John Dinsmore (bass), and Lyle Molzan (drums) kept it in the pocket all night. The set list included several new songs including the rollicking “Going to Hell”, which sounded like it was musically inspired by early Billy Bragg records. Edwards introduced the song by saying it was about both ‘Canadian geography and lust.’ This sort of innuendo was also featured on my favorite Edwards tune and another highlight of the evening, the clever “Back to Me”. Though seemingly non-plussed by the audience, which only managed to fill half of the orchestra seats at the large theatre (Edwards asked whether they had handed out valium at the door), she remained cheery throughout. She gave the whole audience a thrill when she invited Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon to come on stage to harmonize with her on the gorgeous “Mercury” from her debut album.

She was called back for an encore, and returned to the stage solo with an acoustic guitar. A woman up front called out for “Buffalo”, the piano based opening track from Asking for Flowers. Edwards chuckled and said she’d try, but hadn’t played the song in awhile. She did more than try and quieted the whole theatre with her performance. The band then returned for “Asking for Flowers” and a fun cover of Loudon Wainwright’s “Swimming Song”.

She then turned the rest of the evening over to Alejandro, whose set you can read about here.

About the author:  Specializes in Dead, Drunk, and Nakedness..... Former College Radio DJ and Current Craft Beer Nerd

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