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Kim EdgarKim Edgar
Album: Stories Untold
Label: Quietly Fantastic
Tracks: 12

Edinburgh-based singer-songwriter and pianist, Kim Edgar, will release her third solo album, "Stories Untold", towards the end of September. Her first two albums ("Butterflies and Broken Glass" (2008) and "The Ornate Lie" (2012)) received critical acclaim and so this latest release has been eagerly-anticipated.

In the past few years, Kim Edgar's musical horizons and life experiences have expanded considerably through writing, recording and touring as a member of the German-based folk band Cara, as well as her inspirational work with a range of choirs (notably the BIG Project in Edinburgh) and her valuable and fulfilling role with the Vox Liminis project, which has involved visiting various Scottish prisons to support and encourage the inmates through facilitating singing and songwriting workshops. Kim's earlier career as a primary school teacher underlined to her the value of stories as a safe way of exploring feelings and attutudes, and walking in someone else's shoes - of opening up, connecting and feeling empathy with others, and she uses these story-telling techniques skilfully, together with her striking and poetic imagery, to address a range of thought-provoking topics in this latest collection of intimate, inspiring and original songs.

The new material features Kim Edgar's trademark graceful vocals and elegant piano (and occasional acoustic guitar) and once again demonstrates her skills as an arranger and her ability to bring a range of talented musicians on board to provide added depth and colour to her musical palette.

The album opens strongly with "Twa Magicians", a stirring, supernatural tale of a shape-shifting young woman who constantly takes on new guises in her attempts to escape the clutches of a persistent suitor with similar shape-shifting powers. The song fairly romps along, featuring urgent piano chords, loping bass runs, uplifting flourishes of strings, deep tones of brass and soaring vocal harmonies. It also reflects Kim Edgar's penchant for dark and mysterious subject matter and demonstrates her ability to write convincingly in the Scots language. Against a backgound of delicately-picked acoustic guitar and graceful cello, "Anchor In The Sky" offers up a moving tribute to those who provide sorely-needed love and support to others in their times of need. In "The Whole Rainbow", Kim's piano is punctuated by warm washes of French horn as she delivers a quietly eloquent argument against gender stereotyping, couched in terms of soothing words of encouragement from an expectant mother to her unborn child.

Plaintive violin over sombre piano chords embellish "Significant Other Deceased", Kim Edgar's touching musical interpretation of a moving poem by Rachel Fox, which deals with the anguish and hopelessness felt by one spouse over the tragic loss of her/his partner during the 7/7 terrorist attacks in London. The lightening of tone and quickening of pace towards the end of the song seem to offer up a shred of hope for the future. The next two songs on the album (both incredibly moving) are inspired by Kim's involvement in the Vox Liminis project. Firstly, in "Things Crack, Then Shatter", she imagines how it might feel to walk in the shoes of a young boy who feels inexplicable guilt and shame over the imprisonment of his father for a violent crime. Then, in "The Seamstress", Kim writes from the perspective of a young female inmate kept going by her hopes of a better life following her release from prison ("…she salvages and darns, this act of restoration is saving the seamstress and her yarn …."). This powerful musical arrangement features brooding sousaphone rumbling beneath majestic piano, with the mood lifting halfway through, accentuated by sparkling gypsy-style violin breaks.

Kim Edgar returns to the Scots language for "Peerie Boy", a song co-written with her friend and collaborator, Karine Polwart. This song appears to reflect the language and culture of Shetland and, over rippling and cascading piano, Kim describes a mother's heartbreak at the loss of her beloved son, who was unable to resist the lure of a life at sea ("….and now the hands of the sea have stolen my peerie boy frae me"). Sparkling piano and dramatic violin provide the backdrop to "Arms", in which a former child soldier seeks forgiveness (not least from himself) for the war-time atrocities he was forced to perpetrate (chillingly, it was recently estimated that there are 250,000 child soldiers in the world currently).

The last four songs on the album are concerned with love in its many forms. In "Well Worn", Kim Edgar's stately piano and warm and intimate vocals enhance this celebration of the 'comfy fit' to be found in a long-standing and loving relationship ("….well worn, us two, a snug fit in a softened shoe…"). "Tightrope" uses Kim's delicate yet quietly compelling vocals to good effect as she sings eloquently about how we often struggle, or are reluctant, to put into words how we feel about those we are strongly attracted to. In what might be regarded as a companion piece to "Tightrope", "Withheld" deals with a similar theme, but is concerned more with the physical dimension of attraction. With its rhythmic piano, burbling synths and skittering percussion, "Withheld" edges into electro-pop territory……an unusual musical direction for Kim Edgar perhaps, but one she pulls off with great aplomb. The album closes with "Tether Me", which features a majestic brass arrangement and some more glorious vocal harmonies. There is also a return to the anchor motif in this song, which celebrates the safe harbour offered by true and enduring love ("…guide my path when I can't see, the wind may take me, tether me…").

With "Stories Untold", Kim Edgar has exceeded all expectations in delivering an album of truly absorbing, inspiring and uplifting songs, which should enhance her reputation as one of Scotland's most engaging and original singer-songwriters. The new album will be launched at an Edinburgh Fringe gig in mid-August, following which Kim will embark on an extensive promotional tour in Scotland. There will therefore be plenty of opportunities for folks to enjoy this fine new collection of songs in a live setting and experience at first-hand Kim Edgar's considerable musical and vocal talents, as well as the directness, warmth, charm and humour which typify her live performances.

David Ferguson