On “This Feeling,” midway through her first record in six years, Sonya Kitchell channels PJ Harvey for a feverish, feral blues sweating with desire. It’s a jarring “where did that come from?” revelation the 25-year-old needed to conjure more often on this stately folk-pop effort. The former teen phenom has crafted a mostly solemn, frequently lovely set of songs that opts too often for delicate tastefulness instead of raw emotion. Kitchell, who produces and engineers, deepens her acoustic sound with subtle strings, muted horns, and atmospheric keyboards. The focus is on her remarkably expressive vocals, captured with naked immediacy on the intimate “Fight or Flight” and “Lucifer.” Her phrasing, with its elongated syllables, pauses, and hushed intonations, frequently reveals more than the lyrics. The best performances, on ballads “James” and “We Come Apart,” offer transcendent moments of beauty. But clearly, Kitchell’s just as affecting when tapping into a volatile inner beast — some songs here hint at dimensions she’s only begun to explore.
ESSENTIAL “This Feeling”
Sonya Kitchell performs at the Lizard Lounge Jan. 28.Ken Capobianco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.