Kathleen Edwards revitalizes folk-rock

Since the last record review I posted was a complete and utter slam of Lenny Kravitz's latest, here's a glowing write-up of the new Kathleen Edwards, one of my favorite releases to come out so far this year.

Asking for Flowers

KATHLEEN EDWARDS

Zoë/Rounder

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