Hailing from the magic and beautiful city of San Francisco, Meredith Edgar is a singer/songwriter who has been playing her own songs in public since age 14. She immediately reminded me of Gillian Welch, whom she cites as an influence along with Billie Holiday, Morphine, Fiona Apple, Amy Winehouse, Kathleen Edwards and Jolie Holland.
Edgar’s “melancholic and melodic” songs are a mixture of folk, jazz and Americana. Some of these tracks are reworkings of songs from her previous album Watergun, and some were written just before recording. She says her themes are largely autobiographical, touching on relationships and other life struggles. “I tend to gravitate toward darker sounds and themes, and enjoy finding simple but emotive melodies, dissonance and nuance in my music.”
Interestingly, this album was recorded at the Women’s Audio Mission, which provides affordable music production for women and non-binary people. “I (had just) left a 12-year relationship, moved back to the U.S. from abroad, and a global pandemic shut down the world, all within a couple of months. I was extremely fortunate to find Women’s Audio Mission, one of the few studios that was able to function during COVID due to their nonprofit status and numerous precautions during the recording process.”
Edgar sings and plays acoustic guitar, joined by Paul Griffiths (electric and acoustic guitars/mandolin/accordion/backing vocals/whistling) and Sean Silverman (upright bass) on most of the tracks. These 11 songs were mastered by Jessica Thompson, and following are some of my favorites.
“Tidal Waves” starts out with a picking intro somewhat reminiscent of Mary Hopkins. Edgar’s singing voice is quite beautiful, and she takes full advantage by adding to her lead vocals with whispers, hums and fragments of harmonies in a halo of reverb. This is a somewhat eerie tune, evoking a heart that’s unable to accept new love even at the risk of constant hurt and heartbreak. “So, tonight I’ll take my leave / Strike this bleeding heart from my sleeve / Drown me on the ocean floor / When I choke on salt, I’ll beg for more.”
“Louisiana Rain” is a bit more folky, especially as Paul Griffiths takes a turn on banjo. This track especially reminded me of Gillian Welch, and Edgar’s lovely voice is more than a match for Welch, moving up and down the spectrum with total ease. “American News” is a tune in a similar style with Paul Griffiths this time on mandolin, which manages to capture the angst of our current times with a sound from decades past. “Sickness is expensive and work is cheap / The only dreams we dream are in our sleep.”
“Loved You So Long” is a touching and unsettling look back at a relationship that’s been through so much that the singer (Edgar singing as a husband?) wants to move on, because “Darlin’ I loved you so long.” Though in a minor key, this song is so pretty that a superficial listen makes you think it’s a love song, and the realization that it’s not is a bit of a surprise. “Hammer + Nail” features Mr. Griffiths on accordion, which gives this quiet lament a French or Italian flavor. This feels like another - and even more wounding - song of lost love. “So baby you hold the nail / And I’ll swing the hammer / And together we’ll start the split / That will shatter our forever.” Quietly devastating, and one of my top tracks.
“A Start” features both Paul Griffiths and Danny Allen on electric guitars; this one feels like a song by Dar Williams with a laid-back rockabilly arrangement. “Blue” is a shorter, folky tune that’s distinguished by Edgar’s lovely high-pitched vocals and trilling. “Pinned” features a jazzy vocal and standup bass that recalls both the classic vocalists as well as more recent iterations by Rickie Lee Jones or Diana Krall.
“I Will Hold You At The End Of The World” feels quite country with its shuffling beat and down home vocal duet with Paul Griffiths. This mixture of a love affair and an apocalyptic nightmare is both lots of fun and a little scary: “We’re on the edge of nothingness / Come on and give me a twirl / And I will hold you at the end of the world.”
“Watergun” is a stark and totally solo performance by Edgar with tentative acoustic strumming and a lovely yet vulnerable vocal with traces of Kim Deal. Both this song and “Not Your F*cking Songbird” (on which Edgar plays ukulele while Griffiths whistles) seem to put the final nail in the relationship coffin with sharp and unforgettable imagery.
All in all, an impressive group of songs with stellar singing and playing by a promising new artist.
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