"Train" is a great opening to this CD, with imagery of a fast-paced, changing, life going, going where? It's an example of Benita Kenn's strong delivery in a voice both cultured and warm, with thoughtful lyrics and expressions that lift our thoughts above everyday internal angst. And though Kenn often explores turbulent emotions, there is deep comfort and a great sense of life enduring with empathy and a yearning for human contact underlying the self-awareness, finger-pointing and questioning that fills her songs.
Then again, she could probably sing the alphabet and evoke the same moods with such an expressive and vibrant voice. Nevertheless, her lyrics are interesting and often humorous. Though a few phrases do sound borrowed or a bit cliched, she puts her own imprint on them by introducing them in a new context. On another tack, the familiar turn of a phrase often contributes to the simple charm of her songs.
"Keeper of the Flame" has a slight Celtic sound, as do several of the other tracks. This one is filled with William Coulter's soft guitar playing and the melodious pipes of Bruce Cotter. The musical arrangements on the rest of the tracks are just as pleasing and rich-toned, and even though the accompanying musicians are varied, the quality remains consistent.
"Reach for You" is a questioning yet yearning love song that resonates with a gypsy-style guitar beat. The lyrics ask for sincerity, not time-wasting games. "Sir Isaac" is a bouncy ditty comparing scientific laws like the laws of motion with the undiscovered laws of emotion. The style of each is entirely different but I liked both very much.
"New York City Christmas" is a beautiful Christmas carol like a song from medieval Merry Olde Englande with "tidings of comfort and joy" borrowed to share a familiar tone and remind us there are still Scrooges in the world who need to have their hearts opened to assist the more helpless.
"Better Days" leans toward country but it's a little lighter, a little smoother. Country jazz? Country pop? Not quite. I really liked this one, which was co-written with Barabara Gayle. Another co-writer was Marybeth Brande on "Paris" and "Sir Isaac."
A little more serious song is "Sword and Shield." "The lessons you learn make you weary, not wise / And it's starting to show on your face / You're searching for truth though you settle for lies / While you're praying for love and for grace. / You're wielding your words like a weapon again / You're shielding old wounds that have never quite healed / The battles you're fighting you never can win / 'Til you put down your sword and your shield."
"Letter Bomb" might raise some hackles, but if you capture the irony it holds, that every word or sentence in the song might be considered a letter bomb, you realize it's a very peaceful revenge reminiscent of the old saying: The pen is mightier than the sword.
Benita Kenn is a talented singer-songwriter who explores many avenues of emotional angst. She uses lyrics with grace, humour and unapologetic anger (but in a healing way) to work through the emotional strains of everyday life, and she has one of the best voices I've heard in a long, long time.
by Virginia MacIsaac
11 November 2006
Singer-Songwriter ... Benita Kenn: Press Comments
"She’s generous, this Benita Kenn. Listen to her debut CD just a few times, and you come away with the sense that there has been no withholding. She pours out the deepest corners of her heart for your listening pleasure; in itself, no small feat. ...Themed around the journeys of life, Roads is part therapy, part expression... Her songs share lessons learned, observations of the human experience seen through Celtic folkie eyes. ...Kenn has wisely assembled a superior crew of players, and almost every cut features a standout instrumentalist. “Sword and Shield” seems to me to be a definitive Kenn song, words of gentle guidance to a troubled friend, containing great heart and wisdom. ...She has a gifted ear and an outstanding ability to put together music of beauty."