First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2008, Volume 15, #9
Written by John Metzger
Mon September 22, 2008, 06:30 PM CDT
Sonya Kitchell seemed to spring out of nowhere when she released her debut Words Came Back to Me in 2006. Although she was only 16 years of age, her songs as well as her performances exuded a striking level of maturity that far and away exceeded the expectations that anyone had any right to have for the endeavor. Since then, Kitchell has done everything possible to bolster her credibility while mitigating the possibility that her initial success could be considered a fluke. Over the past year, she has sidled up to Herbie Hancock, joining him on stages across the country to deliver selections from River: The Joni Letters, his Grammy-winning tribute to Joni Mitchell. Kitchell was undaunted by the attention, and although she received a series of mixed reviews for her interpretations of Mitchell’s material, she effectively used the opportunity to learn how to be a better vocalist.
While listening to her sophomore set This Storm, Kitchell’s growth is immediately apparent. Her songs are better crafted, and when she sings, she now does so with greater confidence, often by blurring the line between Joni Mitchell and Natalie Merchant. She isn’t content, however, simply to revisit the subdued, folk-y flair she conjured on Words Came Back to Me. Working with members of The Slip as well as veteran producer Malcolm Burns, Kitchell has concocted an endeavor that is more eclectic than its predecessor. Its variegated textures — even when they take a turn toward being a bit too generic for their own good — help to elevate This Storm into a consistently engaging affair.
Broadening the roots-oriented approach that she had developed on Words Came Back to Me, Kitchell has begun to adopt more dynamic arrangements, often by layering gospel, blues, and rock styles on top of her folk, jazz, and soul pursuits. She takes comfort from the pillowy swells of organ and shimmering electric guitar that fill Running, and she embraces the sorrowful yearning that lies at the heart of So Lonely. Elsewhere on This Storm, Kitchell toughens her sound considerably, dabbling in the Rolling Stones-inspired rock of Fire and reveling in the U2-derived atmospherics of Who Knows After All.
Whenever she follows a more contemporary path — borrowing from KT Tunstall on For Every Drop and Carina Round on Walk Away, for instance — Kitchell’s work begins to falter. Nevertheless, her artistic hunger continuously drives her forward. Over time, even the weaker tracks start to exude a certain amount of charm. With This Storm, Kitchell has achieved all of the goals that she had set for herself, and as long as she retains her focus, there’s no reason to expect her to fall from grace like so many of the youthful acts that have come before her. ½
Of Further Interest...
This Storm is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box