Mo Kenney is a native of Nova Scotia. Her self-titled debut album was recorded with the veteran Canadian musician, Joel Plaskett, at Scotland Yard, his studio in Dartmouth. It’s a joint effort, with Plaskett co-writing three of the songs and the two performing all the instruments. A measure of their earnestness is that they used analogue equipment and tape, not digital.
The album opens with Eden, and Sucker, acceptable ditties that feature Kenney’s finger-picked guitar and soft, yet assertive vocals. The third track, ‘The Great Escape,’ is more interesting. The song begins like the others — with Kenney crooning over a medieval-style arpeggio — but then, a minute in, the drums and electric guitar kick in, and the thing shifts a gear. It’s the first time you sense what Kenney is capable of, and just when she lays into the most gorgeous “la-dah-dah dah-dah-dah”, the song is over, all two minutes and six seconds of it.
‘Scene of the Crime’ is another cracking number, with shuddering electric guitars and Kenney’s voice soaring above them, hitting notes higher than on any of the previous songs. “A lifetime in no time at all,” she sings wistfully, as she asks a lover not to leave her, and you have to remind yourself that she is just 22.
Kenney is an accomplished lyricist. She may not yet have strayed far beyond the confines of the love-song, but nor does she indulge too freely in the cliches that bedevil other artists her age. The subject of ‘Carnivore’ has, she sings, “a mind like the businessmen/ he’ll eat you alive/and spit out your bones”.
The one track that might have undone Kenney is her cover of David Bowie’s ‘Five Years’. With Bowie releasing product again, anyone attempting his songs will inevitably be compared to the originals. Kenney pulls it off, with the guitars on the outro suitably sinister for a song about the apocalypse.
- Mo Kenney tours Ireland shortly. Dates include De Barra’s, in Clonakilty, on Mar 2 and Coughlan’s, in Cork, on Mar 4.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved