Here’s a clip of Ottawa-born folk-rock siren and superlative singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards. It’s “Change The Sheets”, the lead single off of this year’s Voyageur, produced by Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, and her forth since her 2003 recording debut.
Where the rootsy vibe of her past work is certainly touched upon, here on this song, it is communicated on a grander scale, perhaps helped along by shimmering, pristine, and almost ambient textures of the production. This is evident on the record as a whole, as are the themes of moving on, travelling, and the trepidation felt that is often associated with leaving an old life behind in order to start a new one.
On “Change The Sheets”, it’s the trepidation that shines through the most, with a quiet desperation to be found in a tale of a changing relationship, a changing life, and the sense of being helplessly carried along by one’s own feelings, railing against them all the way. This is the sound a relationship that is ending, with the narrator knowing she must move on, and yet trying to deny what she knows to be inevitable.
It’s hard not to be convinced that Edwards is speaking from personal experience, given the timing and circumstance of this new album.
As listeners, we’re catching Edwards at an in-between place where emotional states are concerned, with a new era driving her forward, while the impulse to resist taking the risks necessary to make that happen balancing it off. This is heart of this song, the internal conflict of someone falling out of love, and of wanting perhaps to ignore the feeling that it’s time to move on, not unlike Neil Young’s “Look Out For My Love”, another tale of that awful in-between phase of a dying relationship, and with Young being something of a stylistic anchor for Edwards in any case.
Another influential artist at work in this song of course is Justin Vernon, he of Bon Iver fame, and with something of a keen ear for emotionally charged songwriting. His own debut came out of a break-up, and out of a process of redefinition, so you can see why he might have had a clear idea on how to bolster Edwards’ efforts to navigate through this thematic territory. He does so just by making the record, and this song, sound spacious, and slightly (dare I say it) wintry. All the while, Edwards and Vernon began their romantic relationship, just to give things an even more emotionally complex backdrop.
It should be said that the word “Voyageur” is a very Canadian term; a word used to describe travelers exploring new territory by canoe in early French Canada and the Great Lakes region (which explains the cover art), delving into river systems and lakes never before explored by Europeans. This was very often a dangerous prospect. Starting a new relationship, getting over an old one, and dealing with both at the same time, can often make one feel the very same way.
For more information about Kathleen Edwards, and her approach to the writing and production of her new record, check out this interview with Kathleen Edwards, in which she asserts that she is sure that Voyageur will be called her ‘divorce album’.
And of course, check out Kathleen Edwards official site for news about new releases and tour dates.