Edith Frost’s songs taking on new topics, moods
A quieter, more confessional Edith Frost comes out on her latest disc "Wonder Wonder."
By Kevin McKeough
Special to the Chicago Tribune
Edith Frost recently heard from her high school sweetheart for the first time in years, congratulating the Chicago singer on fulfilling her lifelong dream of making music. "He said, it’s really cool to see you do this, because you wanted to do it when we were going out," the now 37-year-old Frost reports.
Frost has had other boyfriends, lots of would-be boyfriends, one husband and plenty of songs in her life in the two decades since then. Many of them have found their way into the records she’s made for local independent label Drag City, including last year’s "Wonder Wonder."
There are songs like "Blue," which find a devastated Frost quietly recalling "the night you told me you could never love me," and songs like "Easy to Love," that find her delighting at finding "the lover that I’ve always dreamed of."
"It’s honest. I’m in love with this guy that I’m with, and it’s a love song for him," Frost says. The security she’s gotten out of her current three-year relationship has reduced the anxiety that made its way into songs like "Hear My Heart" (in which she sings "you don’t even know me hardly at all/and the chance is incredibly small").
"I would get crushes on people really easy," Frost explains. "I had to differentiate between what’s a crush and what’s actually going to work. It was so messing with my life not to have a stable relationship. It was heart-wrenching all the time."
With her love life on solid ground, Frost has begun expanding her songs to include new topics and new song forms. She points to "Cars and Parties," an examination of geographic and emotional rootlessness set to a parade march beat. "I’m really proud of that one. It turned into a really solid pop rock song."
The music variety of "Wonder Wonder" extends to the organ-driven "The Fear"; piano-based chamber-folk songs like "Merry Go Round"; and the fiddle-fueled trot "Further." The last song is one of the reasons Frost has been tagged as part of the alternative country scene, but she chafes at labeling herself.
"I can’t and I won’t. I refuse," she says with one of her frequent chuckles. "I try to do something that sounds cool. It’s a little rock, a little country, a little blues, a little psychedelic."
Frost’s soft, low singing adds to the record’s confessional mood. "I like playing around with vocals. The songs I’d done used my middle register and upper register a lot, and I wanted to do more low stuff."
Members of Wilco, Poi Dog Pondering, the Sea and Cake, and Eleventh Dream Day all contribute to "Wonder Wonder," a demonstration of the communal nature of the music scene Frost joined when the Texas native moved here from New York in 1996 after splitting up with her husband.
"It’s really fun to move because you’re kind of wiping the slate clean and you’re starting a whole new life," she reflects. "In a way it really wrecks your whole life but in another way there can be a rebirth too if you work it right. Chicago was such a good move for me."
McKeough is a Chicago freelance writer.