Canadian singer/songwriter Kathleen Edwards captivated nearly everyone with her 2003 folk/country/rock debut "Failer," a staple of year-end Top 10 lists. Somehow, 2005's "Back to Me" didn't quite live up to the critical expectations of its predecessor (note that last statement's dripping sarcasm as regards Edwards' most excellent sophomore outing; there might have been a half dozen better songs than "In State" and "Summerlong" that year). Now, there can be no quibbling over details - Edwards has produced her delicately driven masterpiece.
As a songwriter, Edwards cranks out songs that perfectly complement her voice and guitar, banged up instruments that rasp with indignation, crack with emotion and soar with exultant joy. Edwards rocks with tremulous authority on the brilliant Freedy Johnston swagger of "The Cheapest Key," featuring a bridge that simmers for just a moment before subtly exploding ("Don't get me wrong/Here comes my softer side/And there it goes..."), then shatters hearts into uncountable pieces with "Alicia Ross," a wrenching first person elegy to a real life murdered Toronto girl ("Was your darkest day as dark as this one?"). Those best moments are matched throughout, from the Springsteenesque "Oil Man's War" to the Emmylou-Lucinda ramble of "Run" (should we call this Canadiana?) to the Crazy Horse squall of "Oh Canada." Attention 2008 Top 10 listers: One down, nine to go.