“A Calm Sun” by Lesley Kernochan

Lesley Kernochan
A Calm Sun
Maple Syrup Music
4½ stars (out of 5)

By Donald Teplyske

A traveller of life’s experiences, Lesley Kernochan creates mature, expressive Laurel Canyon-inspired folk-rock tilted toward its country edges. A Calm Sun weaves elements of literature, poetic symbolism, and warm musical influences into a personal presentation of modern Americana that is as distinctive as it is inspired.

While hints of voices as diverse as Frazey Ford, Iris DeMent, and Dori Freeman may resonate within Kernochan’s, taken in its entirety it is unique—she doesn’t sound like anyone but your new favorite vocalist. Singing of surreal starfishes, music stands, and the philosophy of zippers and velcro, Kernochan kicks off her third album with the adult lullaby “Les petits mondes sont partout,” assuring us that we are surrounded by little worlds for discovery. A Calm Sun exposes these.

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Kernochan creates scenarios for us to observe, some honky tonkish (“Hurricane Eye”),  others making one consider what Guy Clark might have explored had he been born in a different time and place (“The Chocolate Tree”). Singing of nights listening and dancing to “sweet, sweet tunes,” Kernochan’s is at her most accessible with “Country in the City,” perhaps inspired by the Brooklyn bar, Skinny Dennis.

Adding to her appeal, Kernochan loves playing with the rhythm and feel of words. Songs like “Blown Away” and “Song for Elijah” have significant depth and even vulnerability, but feel almost buoyant for her skilful manipulation of lyrical elements. Kernochan’s voice is a delight to discover across fourteen original compositions.

Framed by studio and touring vets including Dean Parks (a selection of guitars, banjo, and ukulele), Aaron Sterling (drums), Dan Lutz (bass), and Jeff Babko (piano, organ, and Wurlitzer), as well as Christopher Bruce (guitars) and others, Kernochan’s melodies are provided inspired, sensitive, and poignant instrumental treatment. The album closer, “A Face in the Mountain,” is a fine example, with Bruce’s haunting notes creating an atmospheric depth punctuated by percussive effects, drums, and keys to accentuate Kernochan’s words and singing.

A Calm Sun is an impressive album that should appeal to those looking for natural and uncontrived Americana.