Even after the opening few seconds of Total Freedom it is immediately obvious that Kathleen Edwards knows what she is doing. Album opener ‘Glenfern’ grabs your attention and keeps it, and the rest of the record follows suit. Straight off the bat, it is clear that this is an easily accessible, good record.
But, whilst first impressions are undoubtedly important, the true brilliance of this album comes once you have a deeper understanding of it. Scratch the surface of the catchy hooks and driving rhythms and you discover a softer, vulnerable underbelly. Seeds of lyrics about the most mundane of topics (birds on a feeder, the online street view of an old house) grow into living, breathing stories. And like the best short stories, Edward’s lyrics show you a glimpse of real lives; a vignette of a memory, the middle of the tale, and leave so much to the imagination – what else is going on in this person’s world?
That, in a nutshell, is the brilliance of Total Freedom – every day ordinariness extrapolated to its most beautiful, etherial state. And to those who know Edwards’ story that will not come as a surprise. That’s because Edwards quit music in 2014. She quit so emphatically, in fact, that she opened a coffee shop and called it ‘Quitters’. It is clear from Total Freedom that, in her own words, the best thing Edwards ever did was quit. The eight year gap between 2012’s Voyageur and this release has allowed her to refresh and ground herself again in real life – that freshness and grounding are evident by the bucketload in this record.
If there was any need for a material illustration of the benefits of taking your time and reflecting, you would need look no further than album closer ‘Take It With You When You Go’. Apparently recorded long ago, it was nearly left off the record before a re-think and a re-listen made Edwards change her mind. As it is, it is arguably the best track on the album. Both for that and her wider decision to return to music, we are eternally thankful for Edwards’ change of heart.