September 11, 2008

Sonya Kitchell Follows Her Muse Through This Storm

Every once in a while, an album comes along that resists and transcends conventional categorizations. Such is the case with Sonya Kitchell’s sophomore effort, This Storm, as it reflects a uniquely exceptional talent operating within a realm entirely of her own making.

Only 16 when she released her debut album, Words Came Back To Me, Kitchell earned recognition as an ingénue with an old soul, her original compositions and thick, silken voice conveying sophistication beyond her years.

Now 19, she exhibits even more refined confidence as a songwriter as well as a resourceful musician. And her voice warmly enriched by experience and maturation is nothing short of gorgeous.

Guided more by her own muse rather than any perfunctory approach, Kitchell explores a collage of sounds and styles on This Storm, rendering folk and jazz dynamics with deft flourishes of rock ‘n’ roll.

As such, she attunes and phrases her rich vocals to suit each sonic direction. On tracks like “Effortless” and “For Every Drop,” she croons above a cavalcade of brisk percussion and strings. She descends amid the raw tension and lift of “Borderline” and “Fire,” her voice heaving all feisty and proud. And on “Here To There,” she serenades to a boisterous, rustling arrangement with the spirit of a Cajun jamboree.

Kitchell bears out perhaps the most impressive aspect of her versatility, though, on the album’s ballads. Her womanly yet delicate inflections, the ways in which she draws out certain breaths and syllables to envisage the melancholy mood of such songs are impeccable. She accentuates the contemplative lyrics of “Running” with a poignant tremble; she imparts “So Lonely” in wistful, aching sighs; and on “Robin In The Snow,” she affects a lilting tone that beautifully echoes and bends to the music’s plaintive sway.

With this album, Sonya Kitchell firmly establishes herself as an artist of rare distinction, whose promise is tempered solely by the scope of her creative vision.