In an intimate Hollywood performance Tuesday (3/22), Kathleen Edwards brought her band through a rotation of strong roots-rock numbers, but ultimately made her biggest impact with her quieter songs.
Taking the stage at the Knitting Factory, Edwards quietly eased into the disarming “Pink Emerson Radio,” a dream-like assessment of mementos and memories glimpsed in the moment before rushing from a burning house.
Loss is a major focus of Edwards’ current repertoire. Much of her latest release, “Back To Me,” deals with it, but never passively. Rather, the protagonists in her songs are fighting to keep from losing companions, realizing they’ve lost a fight and walking away to fight another day, or just digesting the fact that things have changed.
Musically, Edwards and band in full-tilt rock mode are a powerful cocktail: swirling organ chords and thick lead guitar figures over heavy backbeats. Case in point was the early appearance of “Independent Thief,” a mid-tempo rocker that gave guitarist Colin Cripps ample room to work up a slow burn of a solo into a David Gilmour-flavored, layered-delay blowout.
Edwards’ use of Tom Petty studio alumni Benmont Tench and Jim Scott on “Back To Me” makes it easy to draw a dotted line to sonic influences in her arrangements–and, indeed, the album’s title track plays out like a recognizable cousin to Petty’s “Running Down a Dream”–but fibers of Neil Young and Steve Earle could also be imagined across her catalogue. And like them all, Edwards steps to the microphone more as a storyteller than a crooner. Her slightly smoky voice doesn’t wander into reedy territory during her softer moments, but stays quiet and resolute.
A striking moment in Tuesday’s show had Edwards veer from the written setlist to bring opening artist Kristin Mooney to the stage to perform a duet on Gram Parsons’ “Juanita.” It proved a stunning, low-key moment that, like the opener “Radio” and encores “Away” and a cover of Young’s “Unknown Legend,” established that, while Edwards can surely rock, she can take even tighter control of a room with just six strings and her voice.