A little over one year ago, Ottawa’s Kathleen Edwards would have been doing quite well to have thirty to forty beer guzzlers standing around listening to her independent album Failer. What a difference a year makes. Appearances at the annual North by Northeast Festival in Toronto had labels drooling for her to sign with them, sensing what everyone and their dog, from major music publications to David Letterman, would see as the next alt-country darling. But despite it all, Edwards hasn’t really let anything, aside from the odd shot of whiskey, get to her head. It was with this in mind that the diminutive singer began a homecoming of sorts, selling out the venue quickly.
After opener John Eddie kept most of the crowd from looking at the floor or hollering to their friends, Edwards and her capable supporting trio took to the stage with a new song that hasn’t been recorded yet. Possibly titled “This Is Not My Town”, the track, which certainly wouldn’t be out of place on her debut album, set the tone for the show. Edwards was loose and in control from the first note until some ninety minutes later. “One More Song the Radio Won’t Like” was next, one of the more radio-friendly tunes, despite the cynical barbs at the industry beast itself. And by then, most who stood arms folded, wanting to be impressed, were becoming so.
“Thank you all for coming,” Edwards said. “Thanks for half of the guest list for showing up and thanks for the other half for coming.” Throughout the evening, what became most interesting was the give and take Edwards had with guitarist and beau Colin Cripps. Both had an innate, almost primal sense of where the other one was going with each solo or extended jam. It was as if Neil Young was flirting with himself playing a guitar. Tunes such as “Summer Love”, as well as “National Steel”, resonated quite well. And seeing how the hockey season was wrapping up, Edwards couldn’t help but get some digs in on her town’s hockey superiority over Toronto. “We may be broke but we can kick ass!” She also told the audience how she always had to explain the word “shinny” (unorganized pond hockey) to Americans during “Hockey Rink” and “Hockey Skates”.
Although all of the Failer album was performed, Edwards changed gears a bit with a credible yet quirky rendition of AC/DC’s “Money Talks”. While far from the pounding rhythm of the Young brothers, the song still held its weight within the fifteen-song setlist. “I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said, ‘I am so fucking goth I fart darkness!’” she said prior to one tune, which had many amused. It seemed fitting then that she would conclude with another cover, this time “Changes” by Black Sabbath. As midnight rolled around, the band had left the stage and most had headed for the exits. Kathleen Edwards will return here, but not before Europe and more of the U.S. sees her. By that time the venue will most likely be bigger.