Sonya Kitchell: This Storm

By: Bear Connelly

In a world that is littered with young pop stars that are more or less drafted from the Disney ranks and plopped into any and all situations in which they must follow orders from management, labels, promoters etc., it's refreshing to know that young women with old souls like Sonya Kitchell are still around. The 18-year-old songstress has just released her second album, This Storm (released September 2 on Decca). Her first album has sold over 100,000 copies so far, and after a couple tours with Herbie Hancock and heavily publicized appearances on talk shows like the Late Show with David Letterman, Kitchell took a step back to regroup and get back to the music. She holed up in a cabin in upstate New York to write, rehearse and record with some of the best musical minds around. Produced by Grammy Award winner Malcolm Burn (who also handles bass duties) and with The Slip's Andrew and Brad Barr, This Storm is an evident sign of her continuing journey towards musical maturation.

The album's opening track features a more pop-rock approach than the acoustic jazzy musings of 2006's Words Came Back to Me. Complete with backing vocal sheen, power chords and a Phil Selway-esque backbeat (provided by Andrew Barr) "Every Drop" demands the listener's attention right off the bat. Although musically Kitchell is growing faster than a cucumber plant, lyrically we are still reminded of her adolescence. Songs like "Robin in the Snow" and the overindulgent rhyming of "Borderline" come across as Kitchell trying a little too hard to find her poetic muse. However, some absolute sonic gems are starting to appear on her radar. "Running" is a foot tapping, well-crafted song for the ages that seems familiar upon your first encounter. Her band's uncanny ability to take simple chord progressions and arrange them masterfully in order to highlight Kitchell's smoky but warm voice, which recalls Fiona Apple in a lower register.

The title track closes the album with an ode to living in the moment. Kitchell's vocal melody is complemented by Brad Barr's guitar work in a sweet call and response, while Andrew and Burn lay down a solid, danceable foundation. Look for her to take songs like this to the next level this fall as she tours with The Slip as her backing band (we already know what they can do for Nathan Moore's songs!). It seems as though Kitchell's success is not a result of clever marketing and a big label backing - she's the real deal. I look forward to watching her grow as a musician and see where she takes her already pleasant sound.

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[Published on: 10/2/08]

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Window starstarstarstarstar Thu 10/2/2008 10:37PM
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Looking forward to 10/24 at The Independent.