There’s a song called “Oil Man’s War” on Canadian alt-country singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards’s new album Asking for Flowers, but it’s not about you-know-who or you-know-where. No, it’s the story of a young American couple, Bobby and Annabel, who got married in a rush and are driving to Canada because Bobby doesn’t want to go to war. Most likely it’s the Vietnam War, but it’s hard to say. “Bobby wished he was from the past,” Edwards sings. “He said those cars they used to drive were the best.” So, it could be 1968, it could be 2008, it could be Edwards, and it could be Bruce Springsteen.
Except for one thing: If Springsteen’s classic songs are all about the romance of the road, Edwards is more concerned with what happens when the drive is over: “When we get up north/ We’ll buy us a store/ live upstairs after the kids are born.” In fact, the album is full of people fleeing north. “Goodnight, California” is the title of one song. “Scared at Night” finds her flying to Winnipeg to see a relative on his deathbed. Another song finds Edwards desperate to get home at a snowy border crossing in Buffalo. In this context, it’s hard to hear an Edwards line like “I’m a Ford Tempo, you’re a Maserati” and not chalk it up to her homeland’s famous humility.
But before you start looking up real estate prices in Vancouver, Edwards throws in “Oh, Canada” in which she sees news coverage about a teenage girl being shot and sings, “There are no headlines/ When a black girl dies.”
KATHLEEN EDWARDS, Belly Up, Wednesday, May 14, 9 p.m. 858-481-8140. $15 or $17.