Despite on-air support from local NPR station KCRW, Canadian singer/ songwriter Kathleen Edwards faced a sparse house at the House of Blues for her Los Angeles debut. Maybe it was attrition because of

Despite on-air support from local NPR station KCRW, Canadian singer/ songwriter Kathleen Edwards faced a sparse house at the House of Blues for her Los Angeles debut. Maybe it was attrition because of the Easter/ Passover weekend or the lateness of the midnight gig (the second show of the evening at the Sunset Strip showplace), but many chairs on the floor of the 1,000-capacity venue were empty.

Edwards commented on the lackluster attendance with self-deprecating humor: "I can't fill clubs at home, either," the Ottawa native confessed drily, "but there, there's usually three hockey games going."

It was not the last joke about Canada's national sport that Edwards would make during the show. Her wry, sometimes hectoring stage presence drove a compelling but not entirely satisfying set drawn from her Zöe Records bow, Failer.

Armed with an acoustic guitar for most of the performance, Edwards led a tight, three-piece band through a no-frills, often hard-rocking show. The album's economical arrangements were expanded in concert to make room for guitarist Colin Cripps' prickling fretwork.

Failer's most sharply observed short-stories-in-song—"One More Song the Radio Won't Like," "Westby," and "Six O'Clock News"—were convincingly delivered, and the show concluded with three crackling solo numbers. However, the night's languid moments served to point out that Edwards, who is only 24, hasn't yet crafted an evening's worth of top-flight tunes—even with the addition of some unrecorded material.

But even if her songbook is still a work in progress, Edwards does possess a keen melodic sense; the on-stage poise of a veteran; a strong, affecting voice; and charisma to burn, all of which bode for a bright future.

Austin emigré Ramsay Midwood, who played several solo West Coast dates with Edwards, reunited with his old L.A. club band (including guitarist Randy Weeks and bassist Kip Boardman, both local bandleaders in their own right) and turned in a droll opening set of shuffling, shaggy-dog roots-rock songs from his Vanguard debut, Shoot Out at the O.K. Chinese Restaurant. Midwood's spacey presence, his originals' loopy humor, and the group's laid-back grooves drew a warm response from the house.—CM

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