Gotta hand it to her

July 04, 2008

by Bob Margolis, Almanac

How annoying it can be when a seemingly negative event happens to you, only to be aided and abetted by friends and family telling you that it was a blessing.  But as time fades, that cliche is at least partly true.  Singer/songwriter / banjo-picker / guitar-strummer Kelleigh McKenzie is a classic case study...[Almost a decade ago] she was in the process of making her first record.  But her hands hurt - a lot.  The idea of grabbing and holding only anything became unbearable.

Fast forward a decade, after endless attempts at figuring out just what was wrong.  She feels better.  A string of solo dates around Rosendale convinces her to get back on the horse with husband and musical partner Jeff Michne acting as musical director.  The result is "Chances," her terrific, self-produced debut record, which will be released and celebrated July 10 out at the Bearsville Theater.

The pair did their homework and were smart enough to enlist award-winning engineer/bassist Scott Petito (the Fugs, James Taylor, Rory Block, Leslie Ritter) to record and play on the project., and to grab drummer Dan Hickey (They Might Be Giants, Joe Jackson, Rickie Lee Jones) to spruce up three tracks.  The result is an impressive songscape that achieves a nice balance despite sporting a wide range of tunes.

The singer acknowledges being careful about maintaining a sonic consistency on the record, thus connecting a solo piece with a duet - an almost-bluegrass romp to a fleshed-out tune with a bit of sheen and polish.  McKenzie is also one of the rare breed of multi-instrumentalists who can really play all of the pieces of wood that she wishes to caress, pluck and pound.

So clearly those who said to her that her odd illness had a silver lining were kind of right.  While her physical chops needed to be dusted off a little bit, her writing, emotional heft and musical and personal perspective all put her in line to deliver a stunning solo debut - and we suggest that the gig will continue along that path.

updated: 12 years ago