Edinburgh-based folk-pop singer-songwriter Kim Edgar is renowned for her beautifully crafted, keenly observed and quietly powerful songs, which have a real emotional connection with the listener. The songs on Edgar’s fourth solo album, Held, address issues of grief, addiction and solidarity…”Many of the new songs are hugs I wrote for myself, after my dad’s death, which I realised could reach out with open arms to other people too.” For this album, Kim Edgar has once again enlisted the talents of some of Scotland’s finest musicians to provide added colour to her imaginative musical palette, and there are also guest vocals from fellow Scottish singer-songwriters Karine Polwart and Rachel Sermanni.
In the powerful opening song, Lower, Kim Edgar contemplates the downward spiral of addiction, the glorious harmonies and soaring, multi-tracked vocals given added gravitas by waves of brass and deep bursts of sousaphone…”Unspeakable cravings, unobserved, sore. Gaining momentum, lower, lower.” There are further reflections on addiction in Powerless, in which Edgar’s hypnotic vocals carry an edge of quiet despair, while a dreamy vibe is induced by jazzy brass riffs, eerie organ/keys and washes of flugel horn…”Little wonder I anticipate the fall. Going under, and complicit in it all.”
Several of the songs concern Kim Edgar’s grief following her dad’s death and, although clearly tinged with sadness, their warmth and humanity render them ultimately uplifting. In Witness, Edgar’s moving vocals and piano build to the gently heart-breaking choruses, which are cushioned by lush, Bacharach-style brass arrangements…”Let me stand, or walk, beside you. A witness to where you are.” Edgar longs for her dad’s presence in Waiting For A Sign, in which her vocals provide a gentle caress and her harmonies with Mikey Owers perhaps suggest a dialogue between daughter and father. Sombre piano, brass and cello accentuate the poignancy of Absent Father, with the occasional slight waver in Kim Edgar’s vocals conveying both her pain and strength as she seeks connection with, and solace from, her dad.
Give It Time has an epic feel, reminiscent of The Beatles in their prime, and features vocal contributions from both Rachel Sermanni and Karine Polwart. Indeed, when the voices of Edgar, Sermanni and Polwart combine and overlap for the repeated lines “You’ll rise and shine, give it time…”, the effect is truly magical. Polwart and Edgar trade lead vocals and harmonise beautifully in 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, a song they wrote together. The warmth and sense of fun in this deceptively simple song is heightened by flourishes of Penny Lane-style horns. Moody synths and slightly woozy organ underpin the themes of insecurity, guilt and shame which permeate Shelf…”There’s a shelf where I put the things that you don’t want to see. There are prototypes and failed attempts and older versions of me.”
The atmospheric Perpetual Light provides a very welcome beacon of hope for the future. Almost hymn-like, this song once again features breath-taking vocal harmonies from Kim Edgar, Rachel Sermanni and Karine Polwart. The album closes with the title track, Held, a lilting, cinematic solo piano instrumental with a memorable, haunting melody.
With Held, Kim Edgar has delivered a beautiful collection of honest, empathetic and sonically adventurous songs…a musical hug to comfort the listener in these challenging times.
Held will be released by Quietly Fantastic Music on 11th December 2020.