Kim Edgar has a new 12 track album out (4th solo album), “Held”, and it is available from 11.12.20. As you would expect from one of Scotland’s most unique and gifted of songwriters, each of the 12 tracks on the album is a carefully constructed blend of words and music.
As always, Kim has that ability that I like so much in a writer of being able to write a haunting musical melody, but embed within it words of true meaning. Add to that Kim’s always matched with equally haunting and at times delicate vocals and something special always happens. I often find Kim’s music to be a little bit like sitting on a beach at the sea and looking out over the water to the horizon on a calm day. You can, if you want just sit and listen to movement of the water and let it sooth you, enjoy the melody, or you can decide to enter the water and immerse yourself in it, and let it flow all around you. When you do this with a Kim Edgar song, you quickly realise that often, hidden beneath the calm melody of the surface, there are very powerful words that so often are confronting challenging subject matters and often painful emotions head on. The songs on this new album are no exception. Kim Edgar is a writer who understands that words have enormous power and she chooses them and uses them with enormous care.
Underneath the calmness of the surface melody, there is often a darkness to Kim’s work as the troubled emotions and life experiences of the people in the song are explored but, even then, there is somehow always that almost spiritual ray of light and hope trying to shine through the darkness. Not everything is bleak in the musical world of Kim Edgar though, and many songs celebrate the joy and pleasure of being alive and a true belief in the power of the human spirit to overcome all obstacles. Two songs on this album placed together illustrate this contrast of darkness and light perfectly – “Powerless” and “Waiting For A Sign”.
It is not often that I review an album and cannot find a weak song on it, but “Held” simply has no weak songs. Everything about this album, from production, words, music, artwork, packaging has been assembled with obvious care and attention, and the depth of musical talent that is also on this album on selected songs including some of my favourite artists - Karine Polwart (vocals), Rachel Sermanni (vocals) Su-a Lee (Cello) - has allowed Kim to widen her musical horizons here (all socially distanced of course) and explore different sounds and arrangements to complement her own at times ethereal vocals and piano. One older song, given a whole new musical landscape with a new arrangement of brass (Mikey Owers), is the deceptively simple, but so effective when you see it performed live song “1, 2, 3, 4, 5” (co written with Karine Polwart ). Kim Edgar has a habit of writing songs that somehow get into your head and refuse to leave, and songs like “Baby Steps”, “Absent Father” and “Witness” are doing that already after just a few plays of this album.
All good albums save some of the best for last, and the last two here follow in that tradition. “Perpetual Light” somehow manages to embody a larger spiritual sound and message that makes it perfect for a Christmas song, and the last song - our title song – “Held”, is an instrumental that shows how effortlessly Kim Edgar can create a haunting melody out of a basic musical structure.
You can view “Held” as an album of wonderful individual stories, but it also as a complete work has much to say about the many problems that this world sadly has and particularly at the moment when so many people simply want, and need to be “Held”.
HELD TRACK LISTING
Review by Tom King
21 November 2020.