Published Jan 26, 2014As a songwriter, Kathleen Edwards is quickly approaching "national treasure" status. She has an incomparable flair for elevating joy and sadness to equally dizzying heights, her songs' victories as hard-won as their defeats well-worn. For her festival-closing set at In the Dead of Winter, Edwards let those songs stand mostly on their own: without drums or bass, the show offered up a stripped-down showcase of her greatest hits.
Actually, "stripped down" might be a bit misleading. Thanks to guitarist Gord Tough and, particularly, guitarist/keyboardist Jim Bryson, even a dense song like "Chameleon/Comedian" sounded surprisingly fleshed out. Despite her most recent album, Voyageur, recently reaching the ripe old age of two, Edwards didn't have any new material to play — she has said recently that she's on a legitimate break — but there was no power lost in classics like "In State," "Asking for Flowers" and "Six O'Clock News." And, as is custom, Edwards was charmingly candid, telling between-song stories about everything from Joni Mitchell smoking in Massey Hall, to her trip to the Grammys with a certain Best New Artist winner, to her shock that she ended up owning a dog with "oodle" in the breed name.
The night's two cover songs summed up the duality of Edwards' appeal: her sweet-but-sorrowful take on Nirvana's "All Apologies" ached with beautiful resignation, yet the night ended with a cover of Bruce Springsteen's brokenly hopeful "Human Touch" together with Jenn Grant. (Springsteen covers were apparently a theme at Dead of Winter this year.) Edwards digs deep into every moment — even if it's with someone else's words — finding pain and possibility in equal measure.