[K]athleen Edwards’ fourth studio album Voyageur came out in January, and I loved it immediately. But sidetracked by other great early 2012 releases, I never quite got around to putting my feelings into writing. I happened across the album again a few weeks ago and haven’t stopped listening. Kathleen Edwards set out to break away from the alternative country sounds
she’s known for and along the way created a shimmering folk album that is both beautifully written and expertly produced.
Voyageur is an extremely personal album. You don’t really have to know much about Edwards’ life to get it. The songwriting says it all. Lines like “You don’t talk to me, not the way that you used to,” exude heartache. Almost all of the songs allude to and chronicle her divorce. On A Soft Place to Land, Edwards sings “Calling it quits. You think this is easy. I swear I hurt, you call in the jury.” But for every song that perfectly describes heartbreak, Edwards also captures the freedom
that comes with the end and the relief that comes with admitting that it’s never gonna be the same.
But beyond the personal heartbreak that fueled the songwriting, Edwards set out to do something completely different with this album in terms of composition and production. A longtime fan of her work (back when Bon Iver was a just a 3-piece band, they guys frequently covered Edwards’ Mercury off of her debut album,) Justin Vernon agreed to come in and produce. The two teamed up to take her sound someplace completely new. Their teamwork is perhaps best highlighted by the beautifully layered tracks like Change the Sheets where harmonies, guitars, bass lines and drums all reverberate seamlessly and effortlessly
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throughout each song. This is something that Vernon has always done well, but combined with Edwards’ stellar vocals and songwriting abilities, these songs truly shine.
There are a few other familiar names in the liner notes as well. While Vernon assists on guitars and bass, Bon Iver bandmate Sean Carey (S. Carey) helps out with percussion on a few tracks. Bahamas’ Afie Jurvanen appears as well, as does Norah Jones, who provides backing vocals on the closing track, For The Record.
Though if you didn’t read the liner notes, you’d probably never know. And I think that’s what makes this album so fantastic. It stands alone as an album, a truly beautiful, well-produced, refreshing new sound from a veteran singer-songwriter. Kathleen Edwards seems to know what she wants. And she’s right about it, too. As she sings on the closing track, ‘for the record, I only wanted to sing songs.’
If you haven’t already listened or bought this album, I honestly can’t recommend it enough. You can grab it here.