Richard Edwards felt almost human when he returned to Los Angeles to record songs for what became Verdugo. It's the follow-up to the Indiana singer's 2017 album Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset, a beautiful, personal release that was deeply unpleasant to make. Not only was he afflicted at the time by an intestinal ailment that often left him unable to stand, let alone sing, his marriage fell apart midway through making the album. If Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset ended up being a record about letting go, Verdugo is the album where Edwards pulls himself up after falling down.
Produced by Rob Schnapf (Elliott Smith, Beck), Verdugo features 10 new songs that showcase Edwards' considerable and longstanding talent as a writer, and also a new way of singing: Edwards' chronic pain meant finding a vocal approach that didn't make him feel like throwing up. His new vocal style deepens the air of melancholy on the atmospheric "Strange," takes on a wistful cast on "Beekeeper" over subtle drums and a distinctive guitar part, and is lifted aloft on a soaring blend of guitars, drums and backing vocals on "Minefield." "They kind of disappear in this weird sky sonically now, because of this range," he says. "They don't feel rooted anymore, they fly all over, and that falsetto – if you're looking at it as a picture, it goes higher up in the room than it used to."
Though they're different albums in theme and tone, Verdugo and Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset are deeply interconnected. In fact, Edwards essentially made them both during the same six-month period, with the same band. About half the songs on Verdugo were initially meant for the previous album, until Edwards' marriage ended and he wrote a new batch of songs that were more wrenching and autobiographical. He resurrected those tunes, and wrote some more to go with them. "Half of it is kind of divorce-y, like the last record, and half it is more story-songs, more character-driven and less autobiographical," he says.