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Music Review: Sonya Kitchell – Convict of Conviction EP

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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.

Sonya 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 rather 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.

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About Donald Gibson

Donald Gibson is the publisher of www.writeonmusic.com and a freelance music journalist whose byline has appeared in such publications as No Depression, Spinner, The Seattle Post Intelligencer, Cinema Sentries, Blinded by Sound, and Blogcritics, where he was the Senior Music Editor (2011-2012) and Assistant Music Editor (2008-2011). He has interviewed and profiled such artists as Tony Bennett, Lucinda Williams, Jakob Dylan, Allen Toussaint, Boz Scaggs, Johnny Marr, Charli XCX, Justin Hayward (The Moody Blues), Susanna Hoffs, Bruce Hornsby, Delbert McClinton, Jonny Lang, Alan Parsons, Bill Frisell, Rickie Lee Jones, Christina Perri, Don Felder (The Eagles), Jimmy Webb, Katie Melua, and Buddy Guy, among many others.
  • J.M. Jones

    Didn’t Kitchell have an album titled ‘Cold Day’ as well. I used to watch her perform at the Iron House in Northampton,MA when she was 14. I knew she would be awesome.

  • J.M. Jones

    Correction: She used to perform at the ‘Iron Horse’