CD REVIEW Back to Me: Kathleen Edwards 

If all you're willing to give Back to Me is a cursory listen, it has the potential to sound sepia-toned and conventional. The Heartbreakers-esque sound of the band and the typical song arrangements are all too familiar territory. It nearly sounds like a repeat of Edward's critically adored 2003 release, Failer. Upon further inspection however, the veneer of Back to Me breaks open to reveal a profundity more often reserved for elder songwriters such as Lucinda Williams and Buddy Miller. Like those senior songwriters, Edwards finds her strength in nuances.

The album's opener, "In State," has Edward's swaggering out of her corner, throwing calculated punches. Those punches connect not only because of the quality of lyrics but because of the sound of Edward's voice--it's 100-grit with a warm whiskey undertow. Venomous lines like, "Don't say you'll change after the next time/You wouldn't even be yourself if you weren't telling a lie," sound justified. When her galvanized voice gives way to a more fragile timbre and she follows up with, "My face could make you leave it behind/ maybe 20 years in state will make you change your mind," you realize the outlaw boyfriend broke her heart before he got what he deserved. Her songs don't get much more optimistic; but they rarely sound trite. Couple Edwards's lyrical twists and slow-burn melodies with the salt of the earth presentation of her songs and you have an album that is a rewarding listen.

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