Kathleen Edwards has been releasing quality records for almost a decade, but it is mainly in the past year that she has started getting the attention she deserves as Edwards spent a large part of 2011 opening for Bon Iver, and Bon Iver leader Justin Vernon co-wrote, co-produced and plays on Voyageur. Besides Vernon, Bon Iver drummer Sean Carey, Megafaun’s Phil Cook, Norah Jones and Brian Moen of Peter Wolf Crier also guest on the record. Initially, the Bon Iver influence is not as noticeable as one might expect after reading the previous sentences (or any press release in regards to the LP) as it is clearly Edwards’ record and her musical direction, with Vernon’s contributions appearing after several listens – mainly in the arrangements on tracks such as “A Soft Place to Land” and the production.
Edwards is a strong songwriter and her poppy alt. country sound makes for a pleasant listen. When the songs are as good as some on display here (“Sidecar,” “Chameleon Comedian” and “For the Record” for example) she seems to be destined for greater things. The musicianship is excellent throughout the record and Vernon, presumably at least, adds beautiful touches to a few of the songs that one might not notice at first, but will make one appreciate the songs all the more when given time.
The main issue with the album is the same as its strengths – it is a very pleasant listen and beautifully produced, but when the songs are not strong enough, as with “Pink Champagne” and “Mint,” it becomes bland and middle of the road. Fortunately the strong outweigh the weak by a significant ratio and the strongest ones, like those named above, are absolutely beautiful. Edwards shines both on the slower tracks such as “A Soft Place to Land” and closer “For the Record” as well as the poppier singles; the aforementioned “Sidecar” and “Change the Sheets.”
Voyageur is a very fine record and only a couple of songs short of a great one, with Edwards’ vocals and songs plus the warm-yet-crisp production being the main attractions. Voyageur showcases Edwards at the top of her songwriting and singing game which coupled with Vernon’s arrangements and the added spice of the many first-rate contributors makes for a record that by all means should be Kathleen Edwards’ “breakthrough,” especially with Vernon’s fame added into the equation.
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