Kelleigh McKenzie | Music | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Kelleigh McKenzie 

Last Updated: 08/13/2013 3:43 pm
2008, ZATCHUBILLY MUSIC.
  • 2008, ZATCHUBILLY MUSIC.


When greeted by a lone banjo and a high-and-lonesome Appalachian-porch voice, one might expect to settle in for a jaunt through the well-worn byways of dusty Americana. But Rosendale resident Kelleigh McKenzie’s debut CD, Chances, is one rich surprise after another; a bracing mix of earthy folk, crystalline pop, jazz dissonance, and deeply soulful foot-stomp blues. Borne upon this blend are well-wrought lyrics that veer effortlessly from social consciousness to lusty romps and sinister seductions. Many of McKenzie’s songs are peopled with characters at pivotal moments. Witness the emboldened lover in “Call It a Day” who discovers “I’m a raging flood babe and you’re the dam/You want to hold me like the lion holds the lamb.”

Producer and multi-instrumentalist Jeff Michne casts unexpected sonic situations in which McKenzie’s banjo, finger-picked guitar, Emmylou-meets-Dolly voice, and primal stomp-box can coexist with supple grooves and contrarian atonality. A prime example is the breathtaking and original “Underground,” sung through the eyes of a young girl trapped in prostitution in India. As the devastating narrative unfolds, McKenzie weaves in a shining strand of hope, which is buoyed by a sweeping, epic soundscape.

By contrast, an austere rendering of the Lennon-McCartney chestnut “Eleanor Rigby” is surprisingly effective and leads to the double-entendre scat-romp “The Bus Song” and the sensual, hilarious “Roark,” which leavens Chances and drops the listener off with a smile. Every day brings opportunities to explore, open up, and welcome something new. This CD is one of those chances. And it is well worth taking. www.kelleighmckenzie.com.

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