Asking For Flowers: Kathleen Edwards Delivers An Unforgettable Bouquet

Kathleen Edwards defies category — country, alt country, folk, rock, indie rock – all apply, but none adequately describe what she can do with a song. As a singer/songwriter she can show poignant delicacy one moment and diamond hard resolve the next — sometimes in the same song. Her third CD, “Asking For Flowers” arrives on March 4th, and you won’t find a smarter, catchier, more vital collection of new songs anywhere.

“Asking For Flowers” continues the growth curve from her debut “Failer” back in 2003. Edwards has dialed back the rock a little bit, but not the power of her song/stories. “Flowers” has the intimate portraits she’s known for, but now a political edge is starting to come through. Oil Man’s War is about a lot more than a young couple breaking out on their own. Same for Oh Canada which addresses issues of class and color in her native country. Edwards is the daughter of diplomats and it’s her eyes wide open approach to contemporary life that puts her music in the genre-busting category.

Edwards has a great sense of humor too. The Cheapest Key is a snappy barroom rocker. The lyrics play off the different music keys: E is the exit sign backstage at shows/F is my favorite letter, as you know. The girl does love to drop the occasional F-bomb. And who else would title a tender, acoustic love song Sure As Sh**. And then there’s I Make The Dough, You Get The Glory — if you don’t care about hockey or cars this one might leave you a little lost, but if you do it’s a total hoot. Marty McSorely your legacy is now complete!

The true heart of the CD is the back to back tracks Asking For Flowers and Alicia Ross. You have to put “Flowers” at the top of any list of Edwards’ best songs. It’s a woman done wrong song of heartbreaking truth and humility. A dying relationship is described in the chorus as:
Asking for flowers/Is like asking you to be nice/Don’t tell me you’re too tired/10 years I’ve been working nights.

It’s a big leap from the guy on the edge in Six O’Clock News from “Failer” or the creep from the title track of “In State.” Alicia Ross I can only describe as Canadian Gothic. Beautiful, powerful and haunting.

Producer Jim Scott, who helmed Whiskeytown’s alt country classic “Strangers Almanac” back in the 90’s has surrounded Edwards with a brilliant group of players for “Asking For Flowers.” Keyboardist Benmont Tench from The Heartbreakers, drummer Don Heffington from The Wallflowers, pedal steel wiz Greg Leisz, and guitarist Colin Cripps (Edwards’ husband). They all blend beautifully and the recording is rootsy and tight. The addition of a string quartet on several tracks adds a lush level, but it’s not overproduced. That said, I think a lot of these songs are going to rock a lot harder in concert.

Happily, Boston doesn’t have to wait too long until Edwards hits the stage in our parts. She plays the Paradise on March 28, the next night she’s at Pearl Street in Northampton. Get your tickets now.

Will “Asking For Flowers” be the breakthrough CD Edwards richly deserves? Hard to know. I can say with certainty, however, anyone with an appreciation for lovingly crafted songs will find everything they’re looking for.


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