by Al Kaufman
Sonya Kitchell could very well be the oldest 19-year-old in the world. When she released Words Came Back to Me in 2006, at the age of 16, people were blown away that a voice so mature could eminate from a body so young. In the ensuing two plus years her voice has aged better than any bordeaux. While many compare her to Joni Mitchell or Sarah McLachlan, her voice has a smokiness and sultriness that is akin to Beth Orton, KT Tunstall, or the lesser known Jenny Owen Youngs.
While Words Came Back to Me was more of a folksy affair, Kitchell explores a wider musical terrain on This Storm. Much of her newly adventurous sprit may be attributed to Herbie Hancock. The jazz legend and musical chameleon teamed with Kitchell on his Joni Mitchell tribute River: The Joni Letters, which was a 2008 Grammy winner for Album of the Year. The pair also toured the country after the album's release
Hancock's influence is all over This Storm. Slower songs, like "Walk Away," smolder seductively. Other songs add gospel, bluesy, or soulful elements. "Fire," the hardest song on the disc, recalls an early Paula Cole at her most passionate.
There are still a few songs on here that are a little too folksy and bland for their own good, but Kitchell's exquisite voice helps them to rise above the usual album filler. "Here to There," with its gentle mandolin, has a comforting familiarity and charm to it. It sounds like a song sung by an old friend and old soul. Sonya Kitchell is certainly the latter.
Sonya Kitchell & The Slip play Smith's Olde Bar Saturday, November 1, 8 pm. $12/$15 door.