One of my very most listened too artists from the last decade is Canadian singer / songwriter Kathleen Edwards, her first full length Failer was released in 2003 and became an instant favourite of mine, it was followed by Back to Me in 2005 and Asking for Flowers in 2008 both of which featured in my favourite albums of the respective years. Prior to the release of Failer Kathleen released a six song EP entitled Building 55 that was limited to a 500 copy run and in-between Back to Me and Failer there was an interesting hybrid CD/DVD release Live from the Bowery Ballroom, the DVD side of the disc includes the videos of Six O’clock News and One More Song the Radio Won’t Like and the CD side to live cuts from Failer , National Steel and Hockey Skates, along with an AC/DC cover Money Talks, the unique disc is worth seeking out and finally for the completists the iTunes Live Session EP is a great set too. Here’s a set from Kathleen’s performance at NPR back in June 08 featuring some of her best songs from the last album Asking for Flowers and a three favourites from Failer and Back To Me.
Number 2 in my Best of 2009.
Isbell could have got away with releasing his second album post DBT under his own name, but instead he chose to make a statement that this was more than a solo album and in subsequent interviews promoting the record Isbell was keen to make it clear that the 400 Unit, Jimbo Hart (bass, vocals), Browan Lollar (guitar, vocals) and Derry deBorja (keyboards) were more than a session band and although he had written all of the songs the resulting album was a collaborative effort, after having played with and built his reputation in arguably the outstanding root’s rock band of the decade Isbell seemed keen to signal he’s moved on from the Truckers and unlike his first record Sirens of the Ditch which featured former DBT cohorts Hood, Tucker and Morgan, the 400 Unit album was bereft of any former band mates and spouses, the new band deliver the goods as The 400 Unit do a first class job in bringing Isbell’s writing to life, in particular the keyboard work of deBorja which is pivotal to the album.
The album sounds much more together than Sirens, it’s a case of evolution not revolution as the album soaks up southern soul, alt-country and rock in equal measures, perfectly executed the record is a sum of it’s parts, the balance between the harder edged numbers, However Long and Good, complemented by the soulful sounds of The Blue and Sunstroke, peaking with the albums outstanding tracks – the sprawling Cigarettes & Wine and horn laden Muscle Shoals special No Choice in this Matter, in truth there are no weak songs on this album,
Isbell will forever carry the burden of Outfit, even for fans like me residing four thousand miles east of Alabama that song is quintessentially southern USA, but with this album he has benchmarked his career as a songwriter, the imagery of Seven Mile Island, the heartache of Streetlights and Sunstroke, the understated horror of Soldiers Get Strange. There’s an honesty to this record, it’s authenticity shines from the rambling opening of Seven Mile Island through to the closing track the weary melancholic The Last Song I Will Write – which surely is the only untruth.
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