REVIEW: Kathleen Edwards’ “Total Freedom” Accepts Inevitable Change

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Kathleen Edwards returns on August 14th with her fifth studio release, Total Freedom, on Dualtone Records. Anyone that found truth, hope and strength in Edwards’ previous albums will certainly find that and more within Total Freedom. The album is a ten track, 40 minute over the shoulder look at the past and a confident glance towards the future. I suppose that’s something we could all use in these trying times.

Maybe you’ve been wondering where Edwards has been since her 2012 Voyager release and subsequent tour. By 2014, she had been on tour non-stop for over two years, and all she saw ahead of her was the never ending groundhog day of going home to write new material, only to repeat the same process again. Instead, Edwards cast it all aside. She moved back to her hometown of Ottawa, and did what every critically acclaimed songwriter doesn’t do. She opened a coffee shop, appropriately named Quitters, in the village of Stittsville. She put the guitar down, broke away from songwriting, and in doing so, Edwards was able to find herself, as well as her love of music again. Though seemingly content to shed some burdens through working daily in her café, the music was always there, waiting for her to find her love for it again.

In 2018, she received a call from Maren Morris who requested Edwards join her for a songwriting session. Edwards accepted, and the results of those efforts were the song “Good Woman,” which can be found on Morris’ 2019 release, GIRL. The session rejuvenated Edwards’ creative muse, and now we finally get to appreciate the results.

The album opens with “Glenfern,” one of the first new songs she wrote following the hiatus. It’s a jaunty opener, and the song most reminiscent of Edwards’ debut, Failer. It’s a song inspired by her ex-husband, collaborator and friend, Colin Cripps. It’s a song that finds acceptance, forgiveness and gratitude intertwined, and a significant part of nostalgia.

Next, “Hard On Everyone” captures the initial hopelessness one finds in self-reflction, and the realization that we’re our own worst enemy. There’s a subtle jazziness residing in “Birds on the Feeder” combined with Edwards’ reassuring voice that for me, calls to mind Joni Mitchell. It’s easily one of my favorite tracks, one that soothes with its appreciation for the simple things.

“Simple Math” cleverly and fondly glances back at childhood love and friendship. “Options Open” addresses relationships and inevitable understanding. “Feelings Fade” seems self-explanatory, but Edwards’ sharp lyrics drive home the painful end of a long dissolving relationship. “Fool’s Ride” just might be lyrically one of the truest expression on the album. It’s a powerful moment on Total Freedom, and a song that Edwards indicates she hopes will speak for itself. “Ashes to Ashes” and “Who Rescued Who” both address loss, grief and the lack of fairness that death brings whether its target is man or canine. “Take it With You When You Go” is perfectly suited as the closer to this collection of songs. It’s cathartic, and fittingly seems to shed some of the burdens Edwards’ has carried for years.

Total Freedom was written and recorded in Canada and Nashville with longtime collaborator and guitarist, Jim Bryson, and Grammy winning songwriter and producer Ian Fitchuk. The album has a dreamy feel that has as much to do with the keyboards and synths as the spacious production. Still, the real magic here is Edwards’ ability to tackle the heaviest of subjects head on, never shirking risk and accepting inevitable change. Total Freedom is worth the time and journey.

You can pick up your own copy via Edwards’ website here: https://www.kathleenedwards.com/

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