Edwards has bubbled under since her 2003 debut Failer (Socan/Factor), widely celebrated by music cognoscenti. But her world-weary folkie moves reminded me of Lucinda Williams and other sepia-tone, anachronistic comers of the period. With Asking for Flowers (Zoe/Rounder), her finest album to date, she has finally distinguished herself from much of alt-country's fringe-fetish ghetto.
A cinematic sweep and fine Los Angeles sessioneering frame its road songs ("Buffalo") and polemical tales from the heartland ("Oil Man's War"). "O Canada" revisits themes of drugs and mayhem from Tonight's the Night, by Young and his famed, unvarnished backing band, Crazy Horse. I reckon we'll be dancing round the ole maple this election season, crowing "B is for bullshit" from Edwards' The Cheapest Key as it expounds on the ever more absurd campaign trail. Other Edwards lyrics should be reserved for rocker girlfriends and women saddled with tired-ass boyfriends: "I've been on the road too long to sympathize / With what you think you're owed."
Nowhere is Edwards' inherited Great North gift of odd insight more evident than on the disc's best song: "I Make the Dough, You Get the Glory." One could almost see Ellen Burstyn's Alice singing, "You're cool and cred like Fogerty, I'm Elvis Presley in the '70s" to Kris Kristofferson in some meta-American v & eacute;rit & eacute; -- that is, if much current U.S. indie cinema wasn't vastly inferior to films like Sarah Polley's Oscar-nominated Away from Her (2006). Just as Polley kicked creative ass and Feist has been anointed the "New Joni" by worshipful black Atlantic male musicians, Edwards is poised to be this year's sweetheart of the rodeo -- although nowhere nearer to Music Row than before.
Kathleen Edwards with Mary Bue at the Knitting Factory on Friday, Aug. 29 at 7 pm. $20. Visit ticketswest.com or call 325-SEAT.