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Before Justin Vernon took to the stage at Usher Hall last week, it was his girlfriend Kathleen Edwards who provided the support and she proved to be a more than worthy warm up act for the Bon Iver front man.
A couple of guitars and a violin, coupled with Edwards’ haunting melodies created a vast electric resonance instantly. For those who don’t know, Edwards’ folksy music has more country leanings than Bon Iver whilst her voice has similarities with that of Imogen Heap. This style of country seems far more accessible to a British audience than most – like many Canadian artists she seems to write lyrics that translate better across the pond than their American counterparts. Her fourth album, co-produced by Vernon, is released on January 17th and it will be the first time she has collaborated with anyone.
“Asking For Flowers”, the title track from her 2008 album, sounds majestic yet understated all at once – again, it’s Kathleen’s voice that grows with every key change, layers of her talent being masterfully revealed to the audience over time rather than trying too much too quickly. As a result it’s slick and impressive and grabs your attention but keeps it too. And despite being so well produced this is still a brilliant raw performance from an artist who really does relate to her crowd (despite enquiring “anyone here from Glasgow? I’ve played King Tut’s more times than I’ve had a period”).
The new material is like a postcard for Canada and polar bears and the wide open spaces which she sings about but also seems to create within the hall just with her voice. The input from Vernon is evident too: one track sounds a lot like Hinnom from Bon Iver’s eponymous 2011 album, for instance, but her voice is unique enough for it to work originally. “Moving to America”, meanwhile, is almost sing-along with echoes of Pink Floyd.
Kathleen didn’t make use of the stunning Bon Iver light show set up that was later so hypnotic and purple for Beth/Rest and intensely red for Blood Bank; instead this was simple and beautiful – the very essence of why her boyfriend’s music is so popular and the reason she was absolutely the right choice to support.