From the grooving opening track “To Be That Needle,” to the charmingly lo-fi “Yearning,” Edmonds presents himself as a folkie with a tough, inner-city edge. It’s a stylistic shift he had been mulling over before Harlan Pepper’s dissolution, and as tracks began taking shape in his home studio, Edmonds soon realized he had no choice but to go all the way.
“My idea was mainly to just hit record and see what came out,” he says. “A lot of the songs were created that way, but the entire album evolved over a long period of time. I used an 8-track machine, so I was really limited in that sense, but I loved the challenge. It was almost like trying to make the perfect demo. To me, demos always sound better than the final product in most cases.”
Edmonds’ notion of not over-thinking the process extended to his lyrics as well, some of which spilled out in stream-of-consciousness fashion. Nevertheless, the imagery imbued in tracks such as “Love Can Be A Tunnel” and “Dead Couches” greatly adds to the overall dreaminess of Ladies On The Corner. Some will surely hear echoes of Kurt Vile, yet Edmonds’ well-established voice has in many ways never sounded more original, as if his intention is to deconstruct what it means to be a singer/songwriter in the first place.
After laying down the basic tracks on his own, Edmonds shifted the scene to fellow Hamiltonian Sean Pearson’s Boxcar Sound Recording where additional guitars were added by Wayne Petti (Grey Lands, Cuff The Duke), bass by Tyler Belluz, and lap steel by Rich Burnett (Bry Webb). Edmonds likens the sessions to a gathering of friends more than anything else, in keeping with the loose vibes of the music.
In some respects, Ladies On The Corner is also a break from the Americana tag that was often attached to Harlan Pepper, largely due to their love of all things twang. “Americana has become a pretty broad term, even though I never totally felt like it applied to us,” Edmonds says. “But I feel like these new songs show off a different side of all the old country and folk music I still love. My hope is that people will come to this album with fresh ears and appreciate it for what it is.”
At the very least, folk purists can latch onto Edmonds’ haunting rendition of Lead Belly’s “Goodnight Irene,” which closes the album, an idea he says was inspired by Ry Cooder and his habit of often ending his records with radically re-imagined versions of traditional songs. It’s the perfect send-off, and it’s not much of a stretch to believe it will also become the standard closer to Edmonds’ live shows, at least for the time being.
Edmonds will be doing those shows with a new band consisting of drummer Jason Bhattacharya (also of Taylor Knox’s band), bassist Brad Germain, pedal steel guitarist Ben Robinson, and Harlan Pepper lead guitarist Jimmy Hayes. Edmonds admits he’s been listening to the Grateful Dead a lot recently, so the band’s modus operandi at this point is to fully explore all angles of the material as much as possible.
Whether you call it Cosmic Canadiana or any other currently hip term, the bottom line is that Ladies On The Corner heralds a new beginning for one of this country’s unique young voices. Firmly rooted in the past, but with a vision squarely aimed toward the future, Dan Edmonds is ready for his close-up.