April 13, 2010

Sonya Kitchell Is Bold, Ambitious On New EP, Convict of Conviction

It’s always inspiring to see artists engage the promise of their talent, challenging themselves and exploring their creative curiosities. Over the past four years since her critically acclaimed folk/pop debut, Words Came Back To Me, Sonya Kitchell has reflected an exploratory, progressive approach toward her craft. She emphasized as much with her 2008 LP, This Storm, on which she broadened the scope of her aesthetic with an eclectic set of folk, pop and jazz.

Kitchell has experimented even more now on her latest release, an EP entitled Convict of Conviction, forgoing much of the eclecticism that shaped her previous works in favor of something more concentrated and decidedly austere. She’s further refined her jazz sensibilities, employing them here on “Mr. Suicidal” to striking effect through rhythmic, tension-and-release progressions and abrupt tempo shifts. More pronounced, though, is a classical disposition that Kitchell cultivates, her voice — a thing of beauty in itself, imbued with depth and warm, lilting inflection — exquisitely suiting the nuances yielded by these arrangements. Foremost in this vein is “Sinks Like A Stone,” a sparse and sprawling ballad guided by Kitchell’s discreet piano playing and the subtle accompaniment of an upright bass. Comparably, “Lighthouse” and “Snowing,” the latter featuring a vocal so pristine it reaches near-operatic distinction, are evocative highlights as well.

Kitchell is a bold, gifted artist with the potential of developing into a significant one over time. That Convict of Conviction is but her third release (even at its abbreviated length) is, in all honesty, mind-boggling. At a stage in her career when other artists would sooner nurture an established style or sound lest they alienate listeners, she instead has taken no small risk here. And it’s a risk that has paid off, culminating in music that is sophisticated and, at the same time, deeply moving.