Sonya Kitchell: Convict of Conviction

[5 May 2010]

By Bill Clifford

Sonya Kitchell was thrust into the spotlight upon the release of her critically lauded full-length debut, Words Come Back to Me, in 2006. Just a teenager at the time, she toured the world with a diverse array of artists such as Angelique Kidjo, Ben Harper, the Slip, and jazz legend Herbie Hancock.  Late in 2008, however, the young singer/songwriter retreated to the countryside of her native Massachusetts to write new songs, resulting in the Convict of Conviction EP.  The six songs here find Kitchell turning down a divergent path, as it was the first time she wrote on the piano, and they reflect the somber solace of the setting in which they were written.

The sullen title track is the strongest of the six, with lovely piano and Kitchell’s lilting vocal inflection backed by ominous cello and violin. The strings accentuate the tortured artist, the song’s protagonist. The tone lifts on “Lighthouse”, a ballad written from the perspective of being swept away by love at first sight, and searching for a guiding light. Then, on the foreboding, jazzy torch song “Sinks Like a Stone”, her breathy falsetto portrays a dark, solemn, worrisome heart, with wistful brushed percussion and lovely but sad piano underscoring the dark resonance. The percussion and strings take on a middle-eastern flare on the closing “Gypsy Eyes”, amidst lyrics of being ready to fall and pushed over the edge and wolves that howl and prowl.

This EP is mature and introspective in its subject matter, far more so than that of the majority of Sonya Kitchell’s 21-year-old peers. Then again, Kitchell’s music and performances have always been far more sophisticated than those of her contemporaries.

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