Sonya Kitchell with special guests The Slip
ABOUT Sonya Kitchell
SONYA KITCHELL This Storm Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Sonya Kitchell has delivered the goods on her new album This Storm 12 timeless tunes that document her evolution from emerging artist into a sophisticated musician and songwriter with something meaningful to say about the human condition. Her lyrics are sometimes personal and often political, but all are insightful and deeply felt.
Kitchells growth as an artist is apparent from the opening moments of the albums breathtaking lead track, Every Drop. A clear departure from mild singer-songwriter fare, the tracks jittery heartbeat pulses over a lightly tinkling piano before building to a massive chorus, where Kitchells otherworldly voice rises commandingly over unrestrained guitars. Musical surprises abound throughout, from the edgy, impassioned rock of Fire to the country-blues twang of Running to the drifting, textured alt-pop of This Storm and Who Knows After All. Not that fans of Words Came Back To Me will be out of luck, either: tracks like Walk Away and Robin In The Snow are quintessential acoustic Kitchell.
At all times, the songs are a showcase for Kitchells worldly voice, which, with its intimate tone and feathery falsetto, has earned her attention not only from critics, but also from one of the most respected figures in jazz: Herbie Hancock. After hearing Kitchell sing, Hancock invited her to perform with him and his all-star band at the Sonoma Jazz Festival in 2006. The two developed a warm rapport and Hancock tapped Kitchell to sing in his band as he toured the West Coast last year in support of his Grammy-Award winning album River: The Joni Letters. (Kitchell also sings on All I Want on the Amazon and ex-U.S. iTunes versions of the album.)
Herbie encouraged me as far as improvising goes and gave me the nod to go ahead and experiment, Kitchell says. If he thinks Im a good singer, thats a huge compliment and a pat on the back. It made me realize, Okay, I can do this. Each night hed stretch out and improvise, and Id stretch out and improvise. It was like this dance we did every night. And to do that with someone like Herbie Hancock makes you feel like you can do it with anyone.
Not that Kitchell is lacking in admirers. Her debut album, 2006s Words Came Back To Me, released when she was only 16, had critics falling over themselves to offer praise. Such warm honey-textured tones, arching smoothly through shifting layers of emotion, dont usually emerge from a 16-year-old, raved the Los Angeles Times. The Washington Post noted that her jazz and folk-laced debut reveals Kitchells great promise without once betraying her age. Other critics were as impressed with her songwriting as remarkable as her voice; Jazz Times called them remarkable treatises on life and love. People magazine summed it up presciently: Sonya Kitchell is destined for great things.
This Storm was recorded with Grammy Award-winning producer Malcolm Burn (Daniel Lanois, Peter Gabriel, Emmylou Harris) after her tour with Hancock ended. I wanted the experience to be the kind of thing where we all sat down with these songs and let them grow and unfold and become creatures on their own, Kitchell says of her time in the studio. And thats exactly what happened. With Kitchell on electric and acoustic guitar and Burn on bass, the two were joined by multi-instrumentalist Brad Barr and his brother, drummer Andrew Barr (both of the band The Slip), at Burns home studio in upstate New York. In this comfortable setting, Burn drew remarkably deep vocal performances out of Kitchell, setting off the classic feel of her songwriting with his thoroughly modern production, which layered dry vocals over a wide-spectrum bed of multi-tracked guitars and mysterious sounds. Its an album where every part and sonic nuance exists for a reason.
I want people to feel excited when they hear the album, Kitchell says. That ecstatic, elated feeling you get when something is so good that it makes you want to listen to it over and over again. I hope to create music that has as much of an effect on others as artists like Joni Mitchell, The Beatles, Janis Joplin, and Leonard Cohen had on me. I know thats setting the bar very, very high but thats my goal.
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