Sometimes an artist you’ve categorized and filed away surprises you. So it is with Canadian singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards. Her 2003 debut Failer introduced her as a total kick in the pants — an Americana-tinged female singer who combined disarming vulnerability with raspy, almost confrontational bluntness.

The follow-up, Back to Me, sounded less varied and more effortful, and I more or less wrote her off.

kathleed edwards: asking for flowersThree years have passed since then, and this month, out of nowhere, comes Asking for Flowers, an astonishing leap forward. I haven’t been this in love with an album in a long while — I go to bed humming it and wake up wanting hear it. Everything has gone to the next level: Her voice is richer and more expressive. The songwriting is more varied, more empathetic, more catchy, more honest.

The first few times I heard it I thought, “this is reminiscent of Whiskeytown” — for my money the best Americana band in the last decade — and sure enough, it was produced by Jim Scott, who produced that band’s seminal album Strangers Almanac (which by the way was just released as a special edition double disc).

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Grist relies on the support of generous readers like you. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations matched!

I agonized about which song to pick. There are at least four or five that count as classics-to-be. But “Asking for Flowers,” while not as flashy as some of the others, is the heart of the album. The tone — plaintive, resigned, exhausted — is so perfectly and authentically captured. About a minute and half in, there’s a line: “But all that’s left of me now / is this cigarette burning bright.” It’s so tender, I swear to God it has brought tears to my eyes a few times. I have to drink a canned beer just to regain my manhood.

Enjoy, and go see her if she plays near you.

Bonus pictures!

Here I am with Edwards at the 2003 Sasquatch music festival in Washington:

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Me and Kathleen

Apparently, while I’ve been getting fatter and uglier she’s been getting healthier and prettier — here she is this year:

Kathleen Edwards
(photo: Kathleen Edwards’ blog)

Finally, here’s a little eight minute documentary: