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Edith Frost: Nothing to Worry About

 
story by tim mcmahan


 

 

Lazy-i: March 22, 2006


Edith Frost
w/ The Zincs, McCarthy Trenching
Friday, March 24, 9 p.m.
Sokol Underground
13th & Martha
$8

Edith Frost's voice is fragile.

Not in a permanent sense. On the contrary, Frost's voice is one of the most resilient, clever machines in indie music these days. It dips and draws and emotes with her inspired poetry, with confidence, restraint and introspection. With her voice, Frost has the ability to quickly, quietly show you her heart in simple, almost lazy motions that can make you forget that you've never met her before.

But right now, Frost's voice is weak. So weak, in fact, that she better not speak. A former Internet pro (She made a living doing it; really), she prefers to do our interview via crossed e-mails. "It's nothing that's happened before on tour, even though I get colds on the road all the time," she wrote, explaining her muteness. "At the moment it seems to be a lot better, though I don't want to mess it up by testing it too rigorously. I know it's better than it was, 'cuz last week I was sounding like a damn barnyard animal."

 

 

 

Let's hope it was sheep rather than a cow or chicken. Frost, who's named after her great-grandmother Edith Keator; ("They gave me the middle name Keator as well, but I don't use that"), writes that she's been making music her entire life.

"I got my first guitar at 14 and that's been my primary instrument (such as it is) ever since," wrote the Chicagoan, now in her early 40s. "Wrote my first song in my late teens and was recording a bit through my twenties, but didn't really bust out and start to do it seriously until I was 27 maybe?"

Her first gigs were covering country and rockabilly tunes, keeping her own material to herself until she got used to the idea of being on stage. "That's always been the hard part for me, the performing," she wrote. "And it is a lot easier for me to pull it off now that I've had a lot more experience playing my music in different scenarios... it's more fun too, because I have more confidence in what I'm doing, I don't fuck things up as often as I used to! I had to gain that confidence through experience, unlike some other aspects of this business which came a lot more naturally, like fooling around with tape-decks, and holing myself up in my apartment for days on end to finish a song."

She's finished plenty of them. Four LPs' worth, to be exact, starting with her '97 Drag City Records debut, Calling Over Time. Through them all, she's created a mystical, mythical persona recognized by anyone who's had their heart held for ransom, then released without permission. The same, sad stories continue on her latest, It's a Game, a collection that begs you to sing along with her heartache. So much, in fact, that I've found myself absently crooning "You want to spend your time with another woman" from opening cut "Emergency."



 

 

 

 



"...they're just *songs*, they don't amount to a great big autobiography, it's not meant to be read literally that way."


 

 

There's a graphic, personal honesty to Frost's lyrics that haven't been heard since Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville. When Frost sings lines like "Seems like I'm walking around, with a broken heart / Too heavy to let me breathe / I want to find somebody to press against in the night" you worry that she's singing about herself, that she's really that painfully, sadly lonely. How can these songs not be about her?

"Because they're just *songs*, they don't amount to a great big autobiography, it's not meant to be read literally that way," Frost wrote, trying to ease the mind of a stranger. "I might use a verse I wrote down in one notebook plus a bridge I found on my computer and a chorus I made up on the spot, because it rhymed. It's only after the fact that I can step back and go 'Oh it sounds like it's coming from the point of view of an extremely pissed-off scorned woman, doesn't it. Huh. Well as long as it rhymes!!' So that's what I mean when I say that the songs aren't all that personal by the time I get to performing them."

We are only to believe you, Edith.

When she came through Omaha back in November 2004 with Manishevitz, Frost started the night alone on stage, slowly bringing out members of her band. By the time it was over, the quiet solo acoustic set was transformed into a full-throttle rock show a la Throwing Muses, rife with noise and distortion. What are we in for this time?

"It's a slightly different band… same rhythm section (Jason Toth and Ryan Hembrey) but a new guitarist, Nathaniel Braddock. A great player indeed," Frost wrote. "I really feel like this is the best band I've ever toured with... so much talent to work with, why not take advantage of those talents and let the boys experiment a little? I have enough songs, I have no qualms about kickin' out the jams on a few of them for the sake of variety. We all like the rock."


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Published in The Omaha Reader March 23, 2006. Copyright 2006 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.