Kenni & Co, San Francisco's all-acoustic Americana/contemporary folk quartet, has just released it's second album, Shine Shine Shine. "Back at Your Father's House," the first single from the album, is already in garageband.com's all-time top 10 best female vocals, top 10 best lyrics, and top 25 songs in the Americana category. Reviewers have been asked to answer the age-old "sounds like" question, and the answers are all over the map--Joan Baez, Sheryl Crow, Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, Stevie Nicks, Norah Jones, June Carter--but there is no doubt that they like what they hear. "These are the kind of vocals that make me wonder how record labels choose who to sign. This girl's voice is like liquid silver. Absolutely beautiful. Hypnotic." (garageband.com)
Maybe listeners hear the voices of their favorite musical storytellers in Kenni's songs because Kenni works hard to be a storyteller. "Whether it's fictional or not, if it's a good story, if the emotions in it are real, the performance takes care of itself." Kenni puts the song first, the words and music together creating a world unto itself. Kenni writes songs that speak to listeners. And listeners speak back. . . and a conversation is born.
Another album cut from Shine Shine Shine--"You Did a Number on Me"--just won an award in Billboard Magazine's national songwriting contest, in the jazz category. This is only the most recent in a string of songwriting accolades that began at Berklee School of Music in Boston, where Kenni won songwriting awards and a Songwriting Department scholarship. Since then, she has taken an award in the Eudora Welty Songwriting Contest, had songs placed in two independent films, and had a song pitched to Alison Krauss.
"I'm still finding myself as a writer," Kenni says. Not surprising, when she feels the pull of so many different influences: the sweet-voiced intimacy and raw emotion of singer-songwriter-storytellers like Joni Mitchell and Jonatha Brooke; the harmonic sophistication and lyrical precision of American songbook writers like Cole Porter and Hoagie Carmichael; and the rootsy accessibility and multi part harmonies of newgrass and trad country. What all the songs have in common is that "lyrics here are real life stories... pieces of life pulled into sound, and it is in this that [Kenni] shines brightest. You feel as if you've lived each story yourself, and care just as much about it... each piece carries its own personality, sorrow, and hope." (Fly Magazine)
Between growing up in and returning home to California, Kenni paid dues on Boston's thriving folk scene, opening for singer-songwriters like Patty Griffin, Jonatha Brooke, Patty Larkin, and Livingston Taylor as half of duo Back to Back. Kenni arrived in San Francisco in 1997 with her guitar and a pocketful of songs. She collected her band over a patience-testing five years, playing in Bay Area clubs, bars, and coffeehouses and building her fan base and her repertoire until fate introduced her to bass player/vocalist Joshua Zucker. The connection was immediate, and when Joshua called in drummer/percussionist and lifelong friend Josh Greenberg, Kenni & Co was born. Since then, the ranks of Kenni & Co have swelled to include keyboardist/vocalist Anne Schrager.
Patience has paid off. Kenni & Co's shows have an intimate, toe-tapping, old-timey feel, whether they're in cozy coffeehouses or cavernous clubs. "Often bands line up across the stage," says Kenni. "We perform in a tight semicircle, so we can all see each other, and so those of us who sing can hear each other acoustically, not just through monitors." The sound is rich and satisfying, and the band's joy in sharing the music is contagious.
"My ultimate professional goal is to have Bonnie Raitt cover one of my songs. Maybe I should start hanging out in Mill Valley," quips Kenni. Kenni & Co will get there, one song and one fan at a time.