(4 / 5)
Americana singer songwriter Lesley Kernochan’s creative inner flame was lit as a child when she first heard the likes of Paul Simon and Ella Fitzgerald. It was then that she first knew just what joy music could bring.
She brings deep joy with her latest album, “A Calm Sun”, and lots of warmth and sunshine emanating from her lovely voice and tremendous songwriting gift. The PR blurb with the album says she settles into a tender country/folk sound that “casts her in a place delicately between the soundscape of Kacey Musgraves and Norah Jones”. I see whnt they are getting at; the Jones reference fits, yeah. There’s some Alison Krauss sensibilities too, across this record.
Lesley has a formidable bunch of players at her side here. Lesley plays acoustic guitars, joined by mega session man Dean Parks on guitars and a bunch of instruments, who has played with a real who’s who of stars across nearly five decades, including Steely Dan and Michael Jackson. Christopher Bruce on guitars, Jeff Bruce on keyboards, Dan Lutz on acoustic bass, Aaron Sterling on drums, Ben Peeler on various stringed things. Alisa Rose pops up on fiddle on “Love Is A Verb”; a lovely uptempo bluegrassy track, where Lesley’s creative vocal phrasing comes to the fore. Gorgeous dobro from Dean Parks. The album was recorded in Los Angeles, produced by John Schimpf, Scott Jacoby and Lesley Kernochan, all 14 songs penned by Lesley.
She has an eclectic background as a saxophonist, contemporary composer, operatically trained coloratura, musical saw player (I kid you not), and singer songwriter. Four albums of original music to her credit, including the a cappella creation ”Undulating”, her indie rock pop jazz offering ”The Pickle Jar”, the Parent’s Choice Gold Award-winning children’s album ”A Day In The Life Of A Boogaleeboo”, and this sparking Americana gem which really does deserves attention from the judges for next year’s Americana awards.
“Les petits mondes sont partout”, opens the set of 14 cuts. A mid-tempo smooth and soulful jaunty offering, with a catchy hook – an apt Parisian jazzy vibe. Lesley’ s voice puts a smile on your face. The pace picks up a tad with the country blues flavours of “Country In The City”, another fine vocal, some twangy guitar licks from Dean Parks on the solo and some silky pedal steel from Ben Peeler. Her voice goes toward Emmylou territory, and perhaps a bit more closer to Linda Ronstadt perhaps.
“Hurricane Eye” sits on a bluegrass core, Dolly springs to mind, but Lesle doesn’t have that Parton vibrato. She turns in some lovely higher end of the register runs here and across the record. “Tumbleweed” put me in mind of the great Melanie, a warm mid-tempo affair, paying homage to California, “you sweet home to me”. Tom Rhodes and Robert Rex Walker Jr. adding value with their vocal harmonies.
Some cool electric piano licks on the title cut, from Jeff Babko. Strong songwriting on this swooning track, where Lesley delivers one of the best vocals of the set. The song and the track has that Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham quality to it.
There’s Chris Martin and Coldplay flavours to the superb “The Universe”. The Suzanne Vega-esque and catchy “Loving Family” is quite a commercial and an easily accessible cut. The stripped back “A Face In The Mountain” closes proceedings nicely.
Lesley launches the album at famed New York venue, Joe’s pub in November and then flies over to Germany for a full tour to fill up the rest of November and taking her to 15th December. Sadly no UK dates, but maybe next year. PLEASE. They’ll love you here, I am sure.
By Simon Redley
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’