Asking for Flowers
Three albums into her career, Canadian singer/songwriter Kathleen Edwards has reached a new high point with this latest installment of folk-rock brilliance. Asking for Flowers eases from touching confessionals to full-bodied character studies. There's plenty of pathos explored here, but she's no sad sack; her disposition swings from vulnerable and somber to tough and adorably playful. Edwards' voice is deceptively slight, quietly revealing several diaries' worth of emotion.
The melodies and arrangements are as uniformly effective as the lyrical content. Piano, strings, strummed acoustic guitars and a driving backbeat accompany ballads like the gripping opener "Buffalo." Edwards displays her humorous side on "I Make the Dough, You Get the Glory," a catchy number featuring a countrified Hammond organ and pedal steel — plus a line that should endear her to hockey enthusiasts: "You're the Great One, I'm Marty McSorley" (a reference to Wayne Gretzky and the goon teammate who protected him). The album's lone protest song forgoes sloganeering for a poignant narrative about a young man who falls in love and refuses to die in an "Oil Man's War." The band rolls down the lost highway like a twangier version of the Heartbreakers, while Edwards delivers each line with arresting conviction, creating a sympathetic portrait of a modern-day draft dodger. "And I'm not gonna die/ Keep your hand on my thigh tonight," goes the lyric. "When we get up north, we'll buy us a store/ I won't fight in an oil man's war." 4 stars —Wade Tatangelo
It Is Time for a Love Revolution
Lenny Kravitz's shameless lifting of classic-rock riffs dates back to his 1989 debut album, Let Love Rule. He does the same robbery routine on It's Time for a Love Revolution (and again incorporates "love" into the title). It wouldn't be so annoying if the retro rocker actually had something to say — or could express himself sans platitudes. Kravitz carpet bombs the listener with clichés, over-singing like a slightly more masculine Celine Dion. The album contains so many crimes against the art of language that it should be mandatory listening for aspiring songwriters. Exhibit A: "I want to do this thing/ I don't want no drama mama/ It's love I bring" ("Will You Marry Me"). But at least that's a feel-good love song, the kind listeners have come to expect a few Hallmark moments from. Kravitz hits an embarrassing low, though, when he enters politics, displaying all the insight of a sophomore majoring in physical education. Apparently, no one informed the sexpot rock star that comparisons between the Iraq war and a certain Asian conflict of yesteryear have been beaten with greater thoroughness than the detainees at Guantanamo. Titled "Back in Vietnam," Kravitz's plea for peace might be the first antiwar song that inspires devout pacifists to reconsider the merits of preemptive strikes, waterboarding and collateral damage. Lyrics don't get much lamer than ham-fisted rhymes like: "We're gonna fly over the world inside our giant eagle/ We do just what we want and don't care if it's illegal/ We're on a horse that is high, we think we're so damn regal." If Kravitz could only shoehorn "beagle" in there, he might have a career as the next Dr. Seuss. 1 star —WT
Lighthearted without losing its depth, lively, catchy and radio-friendly without losing its heart, Golden Delicious is the latest acoustic-guitar-driven pop album by former Soul Coughing frontman Mike Doughty. Supported by a full band — backup singers and funky keys included — Doughty opens his second solo studio effort with the gospel-tinged, politically charged "Fort Hood." Named after the Texas military base with the most Iraq war casualties, the song effectively lifts Hair's "Let the sunshine in" chorus. "Put it Down" demonstrates Doughty's distinctive method of injecting beat-box into his lyrical phrasing, while the album's first single, "27 Jennifers," finds Doughty singing about his favorite topic — women. He gets quieter and more pensive with the stripped-down "I Got the Drop on You" and the elegant, barely bilingual "Wednesday (Contra La Puerta)." The former avant rocker closes his album amidst the clever verbal repetition and danceable grooving of "Navigating the Stars at Night." Despite the inevitable B-movie-soundtrack moments of cheesy pop, Golden Delicious is quality Doughty that shows the musician comfortably and confidently settling into his role of singer/songwriter. 3.5 stars —Leilani Polk