What we have here is a Failer who communicates

Apr 15, 2008 at 6:15 pm

Canadian songstress Kathleen Edwards visits Thursday.
Canadian songstress Kathleen Edwards visits Thursday.
Thursday, April 17
Starting with her debut Failer, Kathleen Edwards, the Canadian queen of Americana, has set herself apart. She regularly brings new depth to ballads of everyday people making poor choices or just trying to dig themselves out.

Edwards’ recent third album Asking for Flowers is a significant step forward. “It was the first time I ever made a record where I basically started from song number one, which was a little bit of a daunting thing,” she tells LEO.

The results include introspective moments of emotional perspective but also some gripping, visceral details. One song about Edwards’ father contains a jarring verse about a cat that was accidentally shot and wandered off despite a hideous wound.

“There are some nights when people laugh when I sing that line, and there are some nights where there’s this dead silence and people gasp in shock. But that’s a story that my dad conveyed to me, and that’s how I remembered it.

“I like songs that use words that you don’t expect or imagery that’s kind of unexpected but easy to visualize. There are certain times where it’s graphic or gross or it’s strange — but that’s the way it is. There are people who write about dry-humping on the dance floor or going down on somebody, and they basically find the right language to process that, and I take a certain angle where my subject matter’s different, but my descriptions are as visual or as real.”

Clearly, Edwards is making the most of the opportunity to be an honest chronicler. Although she’ll passionately stare down the demands of an “Oil Man’s War,” she’s not overtly political. “I started touring in the fall of 2002 with Richard Buckner, and we were reading Noam Chomsky’s ‘9-11.’ It was pretty intense, a very crazy time to be traveling all different parts of America. We ended up in the South during the breakout of the Iraq War. As a Canadian … we obviously were not going to be participating in that as a nation, and I definitely kept my mouth shut, because I was thinking that it wasn’t my place. And I have my own opinions, and I kinda like the idea that they’re private.”

Thursday night’s show at Headliners (1386 Lexington Road, 584-8088) starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $12.
Edwards’ opener is Dan Wilson, who’s been taking the singer-songwriter route after earlier career turns in Trip Shakespeare and Semisonic. He’s got to be happy with how last year went: a Song of the Year Grammy for lending a hand to the Dixie Chicks, then out came Free Life, a melodic collection with arrangements and production by Rick Rubin. It’s by turns romantic, lush and quirky, and forges a thoroughly rewarding middle ground between clever alt-pop and the timeless Elton John style of mixing classic balladry with rock and orchestration.

If you’re near the Highlands Thursday afternoon, stop by ear X-tacy (1534 Bardstown, 452-1799) at 5:30 p.m. and see a free set by a journeyman who knows how (and why) to reward and respect listeners without overreaching.

Friday, April 18
Play some SkeletonWitch and for a moment you might think, “Dethklok Tribute Band.” But if you’re a fan of any sort of metal, ignoring this Athens, Ohio quintet is a mistake.

Their retro-cum-updated take on thrash includes elegant, twin guitar leads. “Remains of the Defeated” starts up a propulsive showcase of closers, but the entirety of last year’s Beyond the Permafrost put a spotlight on an ensemble sound that was punishing and nimble in equal and unrelenting measure.

Vocalist Chance Garnette attacks his role with brio and humility to keep the proceedings rolling tight. SkeletonWitch joins Hate Eternal, Soilent Green, Toxic Holocaust and At One with Nothing in a Friday-night amped-up fest at Uncle Pleasant’s (2126 S. Preston St., 634-4147). Start time is 7:30 p.m., and tickets are $15.

Sunday, April 20

Hi, Beam: Photo by Emily Wilson  Iron & Wine plays Sunday at Headliners.
Hi, Beam: Photo by Emily Wilson Iron & Wine plays Sunday at Headliners.
Two especially notable lineups are coming to town this week, but their shows have been sold out for a while. Contacting the venue about last-minute ticket releases may be futile, but we can’t blame you for trying. Iron & Wine, along with Califone, is at Headliners Sunday. The Shepherd’s Dog gave evidence that Sam Beam is still growing rapidly in his self-defined role as semi-mysterious chronicler of folk-Americana zeitgeist. The collaboration of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, meanwhile, has been a textbook example of how to make the most of a meeting-of-apparent-opposites spectacle. The Palace (625 S. Fourth St.), which Krauss holds in high regard (check out the live DVD recorded there), kicks off a tour that’s already been expanded by popular demand, including a second night on South Fourth Street, so you can feel frustrated that the scalpers got ahead of you.

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