How about a couple dozen Kathleen Edwards songs that the radio obviously did like?
Here’s a compilation of performances for NPR, presented in chronological order, as captured by Manillo and shared on DimeADozen. As they are all FM-sourced and originally professionally recorded, the sound quality is excellent throughout.
Of course, I remember being charmed by Kathleen Edwards‘ set at NXNE for Six Shooter Records Outlaws & Gunslingers showcase in 2007. I was introduced to a lot of great new music that night, so I don’t remember quite what it was that lead me to investigate Kathleen’s recorded music specifically shortly thereafter.
But I do clearly remember queuing up the Asking For Flowers album for the very first time. I remember the intimacy of the sound of the piano bench creaking under the sparse but powerful chords of Buffalo. I remember the drums and guitar kicking in, matching intensity with a literal and metaphorical storm chasing the song’s protagonist across the Canada-US border.
Future readers (hello from the past!) may not immediately connect the dots, but summer of 2020 is … different. We’re in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the doors to public places have been shuttered indefinitely. Live music venues, legally unable to assemble audiences and artists but still obligated to pay rent, are closing up shop all over the world. Restaurants struggle with having been shut down for months; some have begun re-opening with extremely limiting restrictions, others have likewise been unable to stay afloat and closed their doors permanently.
Kathleen Edwards, six years after retiring from music and opening a coffee shop in the Ottawa suburb of Stittsville, picked one hell of a time to try and transition back to music.
Long time visitors of the site probably remember that I’m a big fan of Kathleen Edwards. If you’re one of those long time visitors of this site, the odds are better than good that you’re also a Kathleen Edwards fan. This blog built it’s reputation upon my recordings of Kathleen’s Drake Underground residency and Dakota Tavern shows.
So it would be redundant to tell you that, following the touring cycle of her 2012 album, Voyageur, Kathleen effectively retired from music, opened up a coffee shop in her hometown of Stittsville, Ontario called Quitters, and otherwise dropped off the proverbial map of Canadian musicians.
I, of course, was profoundly sad, but the last time I saw her at the Oakville Waterfront Festival, she played my request of Away as the last song of the night. I didn’t know it then, but the request was prophetic.
The most recently posted Whitehorse recording, about two entries back, came only a few short weeks after shuttering the previous version of this website.
My family had grown bigger, money tighter, and my web host was being a punk. I wasn’t getting any feedback from readers, leading me think everyone had (rightly) gone off to more fertile websites.
I also wasn’t entirely sold yet on Whitehorse’s full band dynamic, so when they announced their follow up Toronto date at Massey Hall — the MOST overrated venue in the city, if not the country — I skipped out on buying a ticket in the name of penny-pinching.
I justified seeing them two more times that year: once, the duo show with the erstwhile retired Kathleen Edwards opening in Port Perry (and it was free!), and another time in Ottawa at the historic National Arts Centre while I was in town visiting an old friend and fellow fan.
Although they came close, they never quite hit a public gig in Toronto in 2018, so I took a Whitehorse sabbatical that year. I likely would’ve taken 2019 off, too, given they had outgrown the best-sounding venues in the city and were moving on up to the bigger stages with the muddier sound systems, and ticket prices had inflated in tandem.
I’ve written (I think a couple of times) in earlier blog entries that this was Whitehorse‘s record release party for Panther In The Dollhouse.
I understand why I’m misremembering it as such. The band had been using social media to create some pre-release hype for the album throughout the recording sessions, making its release feel imminent. The lead single, Boys Like You, had been hit the airwaves three months prior. They’d previewed a couple of additional tracks from the disc at the end of the set, giving that exciting, brand-new feel. Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland even used some in-between song banter to recognize and thank producer Gus van Go, who was in the audience (and I believe about 8-feet from where I was standing).
In retrospect, the biggest reason I likely made that mistake was because of how much this felt like the beginning of a new era for the group.
Arguably the biggest draw of the night, the crowd was now at capacity and stood shoulder-to-shoulder for the third performer of the evening, Canadian Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq.
This observation would be much less note-worthy if Tanya wasn’t constantly contextualized with phrases like “Experimental vocalist” and “Avant-garde” — hardly large selling points for the masses.
Check Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube Music, or your local record store for an Inuk Throat Singing genre — you probably won’t find it represented anywhere. So, what is it about Tanya that has managed to find cross-over success, earning her feature pieces on 60 Minutes, NPR, the New Yorker, the Washington Post and the Guardian?
I won’t pretend to be qualified to throw my opinion out there, but the fact remains: Tanya’s a hit. Her albums have won Juno Awards, the 2014 Polaris Music Prize, Canadian Folk Music and Western Canadian Music Awards. Her debut novel, Split Tooth, similarly was well regarded: it was shortlisted for the 2019 Amazon First Novel Award and won the 2019 Indigenous Voices Award for Published Prose in English.