Album Review: Kenna Burima – ‘Kenna Burima’

On her darkly sweeping debut album, Kenna Burima wears her classically-trained heart on her sleeve. But the highly-connected Calgary musician sports ample sleeves, it seems, more than roomy enough to ably carry her cabaret, 70s rock, jazz and metal hearts there as well.
Although Burima's sonata-loving leanings are evident right from the first dramatic notes of the piano score that opens the lead track “The Beast Inside”, the self-titled album is really an amalgam of all the genres that define this multi-faceted musician/broadcaster/everywoman. Classical piano, certainly, but any musician whose band resume varies from the sweetly orchestral Woodpigeon to the surf-poppy Pygmies and from the driving garage sounds of Beaver Squadron/The Brenda Vaqueros to the beautifully weird Foon Yap and the Roar, cannot possibly be contained by a single genre.
Burima's powerfully smooth voice pulls you into a velvet netherworld of nightmares and fallen angels, faith-crossed lovers and dogs. When she takes you by the hand and leads you into the party that neither of you were invited to, it doesn't matter that you don't fit in. She knows that it's way more fun in the misfit corner anyway.
Flawlessly produced by Lorrie Matheson—who is fast becoming the producer everyone wants behind their recordings—this debut album features a who's who of Calgary musicianship: jazz drummer Jon May, bassist Simon Fisk, guitarist Colin Mitchell, bass clarinet/saxophonist Mark DeJong, violinist Foon Yap and backing vocalist Chris Nevile. The varied musical pedigrees behind those names lay down rock-solid backing and leave room for the inventive flourishes that distinguish the songs on this album from the rabble. From the clinically depressed A&W Root Bear that introduces “The Warning”, to the touches of stringed chaos on “The Wolf is the World”, to the earwormy chorus that runs through “Dog”, it's the slightly off-centre touches that make these songs most memorable.

Performance video for “Dog” – live at the Ironwood.
Burima channels her inner torch-singer on the slow burning “It Didn't Show” and embraces the ecstasy of the minor chord on the unhinged fever-dream of “Eluvium” and on the rebellious “The Party”. Because it's always a party when Kenna Burima is around with her distinct brand of chamber-pop cabaret. Even in the throes of a post-apocalyptic romance, she ascends with the dogs and sings with the fallen angels.
Don't miss Kenna Burima when she performances at this year's Calgary Folk Music Festival, July 24-27. You can stream and download her debut solo album at iTunes, CD Baby and Bandcamp.
– Barbara Bruederlin

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