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Kat Edmonson: 'Way Down Low'

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Everything you need to know about Kat Edmonson is encapsulated on track four of Way Down Low: a reading of the Beach Boys' “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times.” Stripped and stretched to a plaintive ballad, the singer lends her distinctive croon to a performance that, in the best Billie Holiday tradition, is as devastatingly personal as it is gorgeous. Small wonder that the Austin-born Edmonson would empathize with the Brian Wilson classic. She’s long seemed an artist displaced in time: her coquettish coo and jazzy vocal flourishes more suited to the era of Ella than Rihanna. Yet the album excels by reaching beyond nostalgia, the record resonating with a timelessness that comes only with fantastic production and choice songwriting. She’s got both in spades, though the production — courtesy of ace board-man Phil Ramone — is a thing of beauty: warm and uncluttered as a voice delicate as Kat’s demands. It’s ultimately that voice that makes Way Down Low worth the admission price, with Edmonson able to seamlessly shift from mischievous charm to wistful heartbreak throughout a program peppered with bossa, country, and lounge tunes. Edmonson may not be made for these times, but no doubt her music’s all the better for it.

★★★★ (out of 5 stars)

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