Total Freedom

Total Freedom

Not a few well-known performers have concluded that life in the spotlight is unsustainable and deliberately stepped away from it (think: Lauryn Hill, Syd Barrett, Bobbie Gentry). After earning much admiration for the four elegantly acerbic roots-rock albums that she released between 2003 and 2012, Kathleen Edwards decided that she needed a break from the expectation of incessant soul-baring on stage. She settled into a quieter life running a café near her hometown of Ottawa—until she was invited to Nashville to write with Maren Morris and Ian Fitchuk, which yielded a track on Morris’ 2019 album GIRL. Enlisting Fitchuk as a producer, Edwards ventured back into the recording process herself, and emerged with her first full-length in eight years, Total Freedom. On it, she applies her eye for telling detail and knack for nervily pleasing melody to reflections on quietly transformative moments. She surveys her initial immersion in musical success (“Glenfern”) and a lasting friendship (“Simple Math”) with considered sentimentality. Elsewhere, during the tuneful “Hard on Everyone” and the fetchingly vinegary “Fools Ride,” she offers pointed portraits of creeping distrust. Edwards drew the album title from some of her subtlest work, “Birds on a Feeder,” in which contentment and melancholy exist side by side.

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