I sometimes feel we don't cover enough female artists on here, so this past week, I took some time to listen to both Merritt's Another Country and Edwards's Asking for Flowers. I now feel sufficiently qualified to compare the two and then accordingly dole out qualified, mitigated praise in one direction and halfhearted criticism in the other, keeping with established Rockist traditions. Here goes:
Asking for Flowers is the better album. In fact, it is the much better album. Yes, it drags and was just last week considered by my girlfriend (for whom the disc was purchased) to be "too slow". Edwards's voice would win a catfight with Merritt's voice, but Merritt's would win in a beauty contest. But if Rockist standards amounted to a beauty contest, we'd be blogging about Josh Groban instead of Craig Finn. Further, Another Country sounds like 45 minutes of the Delta Airlines singer-songwriter radio station. In fact, I'm willing to bet she's on rotation on at least one major airline in-flight channel right now. It's so smooth and gentle, it could -- and likely will -- put you to sleep before you can order a Diet Coke and inquire about snacks.
Maybe Kathleen Edwards is cooing in the ears of Delta passengers, too. If so, props to Delta, and good luck sleeping through "The Cheapest Key". Her voice also does this weird wailing thing at the end -- can I say it sounds like one of the girls in The Corrs without losing my TRS membership? -- and the lyrics are just off-beat enough to make it a touch unsettling. "Buffalo" is soft, sad, and pretty, "Sure as Shit" is pretty good, but "I Make the Dough, You Get the Glory" -- whose lyrics had me racking my brain to remember who Marty McSorley is -- has just the right proportion of quirk and catch.
G.L. would want me to note that, from P.R. photos alone, Tift Merritt appears to be the cuter of the two. And, being fair, I'd want to note that Tift's two Lost Highway releases (Bramble Rose and Tambourine) were both very enjoyable listens. The better-publicized half of "alt. country" has taken some hits recently, and Merritt's not immune to those. Edwards isn't exactly dealing in the revolutionary here either, but "alt. country" has always been and will always be about the songs, and Edwards has a hell of a lot more good ones this time around.
Kathleen Edwards - "The Cheapest Key"
Tift Merritt - "Keep You Happy"