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Liner Notes

New Music: Kathleen Edwards, Ben Harper & Rhiannon Giddens, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Joan Osborne

Remi Theriault
Kathleen Edwards

Important new music by Kathleen Edwards, Ben Harper & Rhiannon Giddens, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Joan Osborne. 


Kathleen Edwards’ new album Total Freedom is the result of a seven-year journey.  A journey that brought divorce, quitting music at the height of her popularity, opening a coffee shop and an entanglement with boyfriend who turned out to be a conman. Luckily, after a year of litigation, detangling her from the “emotionally abusive” relationship, Edwards was contacted by Maren Morris to write together. Energized by working with Morris, Edwards started writing for herself again.  The first song she wrote was “Birds On a Feeder,” a song in which she confronts the past and sings about her new found sense of self and finding liberation from the pressures of an intrusive world,  “I got birds on the feeder/ I got dogs and they’re sleeping/ I got total freedom.”  


Many of the songs on the album Edwards puts herself on display. Each song is an emotional vivisection, “Loose ends you never tied/ Now I know it was all a lie/ Cause you know how to spend my money/ You know how to spin a story/ You know how to me on a fool’s ride in the country”. It feels like Edwards named the album Total Freedom, to remind herself and listeners that this collection songs are not about being a spurned lover, but that there is life and hope after a toxic relationship. Songs that show she is not living in the past, but detailing the truth and how she got to the other side. Songs that choose not to sugarcoat broken relationships giving voice to loss of self and existential dread, but you can overcome. You can find Total Freedom.


Ben Harper and Rhiannon Giddens have released a new duet of the Nick Drake song “Black Eyed Dog.” Harper and Giddens rendition of the song is a sparse haunted house. Harper’s lap steel permeates every corner of the song like a weeping specter and Giddens banjo provides lumbering footsteps over creaking floorboards. Vocally the duo meshes into an other worldly entity tormented by the ever-present “Black Eyed Dog.” Unlike Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven,” the “Black Eyed Dog” snarls and latches its’ teeth on an open wound.


The new rendition comes as a recontextualization of Drakes original song. What was once about depression, Harper and Giddens extrude it through the Black experience. “Rhiannon and I are both black purveyors of American roots music, and while this is not an anomaly, it is an exception within a subculture,” Harper explained. “We have unquestionably tapped into the same creative well of influence, carrying on the tradition through our own individual instincts and perspectives.” It is in Harper and Giddens perspective and experiences “Black Eyed Dog” show its’ white teeth.


Mary Chapin Carpenter’s 15th studio album, The Dirt And The Stars is her most timeless and comforting album. Carpenter’s voice is velvet and the music feels effortless. She performs a magic trick only the greatest musicians can pull off. Carpenter makes complex and nuanced music sound straight forward. Like Tom Petty’s Wildflowers, The Dirt And The Stars is music that is distinctly American roots rock, but could have been released any time after Bob Dylan crawled out of the basement at Big Pink. A timeless sound with effortless complexity, impeccable writing, and a divine voice Carpenter has mastered the recipe for a catchy song. She continues to cook up tuneful music album after album while crafting emotionally resonate lyrics. 


Joan Osborne gives us something to relish and rebel with her new album Trouble and Strife. Rising to the moment Osborne jam packs each song with social commentary and kicks out the jams. Like spinning plates, she balances the weight of her messages with solace and optimism. “Hand’s Off” is a visceral reaction to the unhindered corruption that is happening before our eyes. While on “That Was A Lie” Osborne takes on the acceptance of misinformation and how it has been weaponized and normalized. Driven by an infectious 1970’s synth riff, “Never Get Tired (Of Loving You)” features a heartfelt message of reassurance for her teenaged daughter during unstable times. Osborne offers a comforting song of hope on the beautiful lullaby, ”Whole Wide World” as she sings, “We could see the whole wide world from here/ Lookin’ past the sorrow and the tears/ Let me take you to that better place, Let me put that smile back on your face.”



Cory Martin is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tenn., writing about movies, music and pop culture.