. : : August 12, 2017 : : .
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 its reputation upon my recordings of Kathleen’s Drake Underground residency and Dakota Tavern shows.
It would therefore 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. 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 would prove to be prophetic.
I’ve been lucky enough to meet Kathleen a couple of times and get to know her a little bit (at least well enough that she’d recognize me among the thousands of people she’d meet on the road yearly), so her mental health and happiness was important to me in a more personal way than we normally tend to afford our celebrities and artists.
I honestly believed that the next time I’d see her would be when I was in Stittsville. I would walk into Quitters and order a hot chocolate and she’d furrow her brow and tilt her head and ask, “Hey, aren’t you…?”
I was surprised to hear she’d started playing the occasional gigs. They seemed to be pretty much exclusively opening slots — probably for old friends, asking for favours I told myself — and seemingly never anywhere near Toronto. I’d legitimately made peace with the fact that I’d likely never see her perform again.
Well, if I was surprised to see her playing shows at all, I was downright flabbergasted when my wife informed me Kathleen would be playing a show in Port Hope with Whitehorse for free(!!) as part of a series of concerts in Ontario parks for the province’s 150th anniversary. My wife suggested we make an outing of it, and who I am to say no to an opportunity like that?!
This ended up being a Kathleen Edwards show like no other. Although I’ve seen her perform in various configurations before, this was a unique one — and unexpectedly so. A week earlier she performed a set at Hamilton’s Gage Park, where she was joined on stage by frequent collaborators Jim Bryson, John Dinsmore, Aaron Goldstein and Peter von Althen for a full band set, but in Port Hope she was accompanied only by lead guitarist Jon Hynes.
Now, Jon is a well-established musician in Canada, backing some of the who’s-who elite in Canadian musicians– but I was used to Gord Tough standing to Kathleen’s left, if not Colin Cripps. It felt weird. It felt different.
But you know what? It felt good. Fewer moving pieces seemed to allow for a freer, looser set that had an off-the-cuff, campfire feel.
In response to the toddlers dancing near the front of the stage, Kathleen toned down her usual potty mouth (errr…well, she tried to), and even performed the made-for-kids version of The Cheapest Key called It Tastes So Good (To Eat The Alphabet), which originally appeared on CBC Program CBC Kids performed with a Muppet sweet potato called Mamma Yamma (truth is stranger than fiction!).
We were also treated to throwback tracks like Hockey Skates, and a pleasantly stripped down version of Sidecar.
An all-too short set of nine songs (but ha ha! Hamilton only got 8!) served to whet my appetite for more Kathleen Edwards. I was no longer at peace with her semi-retirement / sabbatical, and I needed more of her in my life.
Which is why I’m glad that this post coincides not only with the three year anniversary of the performance, but also with the release of Total Freedom, her first album in 8 long, quiet years. So, if you haven’t already, go to your local record store (those still exist?), log onto your favourite digital store, or boot up your streaming service of choice and give her new album a spin.
Then, come on back and relive with me a time when Kathleen started to dip her toes back in the water a bit. This will be the first in a series of posts to celebrate Kathleen’s return to music, so check back often throughout the next week or two for more!
This recording in particular has some caveats that are worth noting:
a) It was a free show, so there are families with young kids attending, and lots of casual fans or people just out for a nice day in the park. This show is not without crowd noise that can occasionally distract from the music and banter.
b) It was an outdoor show, and a warm but very breezy August afternoon. The wind is most noticeable between tracks, but is present throughout despite windscreens on the microphones and a hard limit cutting off all frequencies below 100Hz.
c) Omnipresent issues with my recorder continued, and there may be some static or distortion as I check levels or otherwise adjust the equipment. There’s definitely a level adjustment a few seconds into Change The Sheets, once I realized this would be a quieter show without the backing band.
Give the below sample a listen, and if it’s tolerable, have at it! Quality is generally still solid, and the unusual lineup makes for unique versions of familiar songs. Cheers!
Oh, and Kathleen? Welcome back.
- Change The Sheets
- Six O’Clock News
- Asking For Flowers
- Hockey Skates
- The Cheapest Key / It Tastes So Good To Eat The Alphabet [medley]
- Empty Threat