On her debut record Chances, McKenzie’s voice is reminiscent of Kasey Chambers: an irresistible blend of smooth sultriness and paint-peeling nasality. Clawhammer banjo, lap steel, and the occasional electric guitar wail in the background while foot-stomps and drums pound out the beat, but it is the lyrics which are meant to take center stage.
All songs on this album are McKenzie’s own, save a cover of “Eleanor Rigby” that doesn’t do much in the way of originality, but is a nice listen anyway. Closing number “Roark” is a short number with a punchline you won’t see coming.“The Bus Song” could be heard in just about any jazz club; on this track McKenzie’s vocals are reminiscent of numerous 1940s torch singers. If it weren’t for the licentious lyrics and the hearty “goddamn” contained therein, I’d be convinced that this song is from a 78 deep in the bowels of someone’s record collection. “War Song” sees her continuing in the Guthrie/Seeger tradition of political folk (“War for sale! / Privatize your worries away”), a motif that also appears on the oldtimey “2017”. As a finalist in this year’s Mountain Stage NewSong contest, McKenzie’s star may very well be on the rise. Look for her at a folk festival near you.