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Album review: Kathleen Edwards' 'Voyageur'

January 16, 2012 |  5:51 pm

Album review: Kathleen Edwards' 'Voyageur'

With four Grammy nominations to his name (including for record and song of the year), Justin Vernon of Bon Iver has officially entered the buzz-by-association phase of his musical career. Last week he announced the formation of a new record label, Chigliak, through which he intends to release little-heard records by artists from his native Wisconsin. And now Vernon’s presence on the latest album by his girlfriend, Kathleen Edwards, is bringing renewed attention to this veteran Canadian singer-songwriter.

The Bon Iver frontman co-produced “Voyageur” in part at his studio in Wisconsin — “I’m moving to America,” Edwards sings in “Empty Threat” — and he plays various instruments throughout; Norah Jones also appears, a reflection perhaps of Vernon’s newly expansive Rolodex. His involvement is audible in the creamy soft-rock textures of “Change the Sheets” and “For the Record,” the latter of which echoes Bon Iver’s delicate rendition of “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt.

This is still Edwards’ show, though, with appealingly plain-spoken story-songs that share little (in a lyrical sense) with Vernon’s willfully opaque word-music. “Looking back, it was such a dumb idea,” she sings in “Pink Champagne,” about a regretful bride taking stock of her situation, “five girls in the same colored dress.” You’ll never find an image as precise as that on a Bon Iver album, but “Voyageur” is full of them.

Kathleen Edwards
“Voyageur”
(Zoë/Rounder)
Three stars (Out of four)

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