Much like Nashville, there seems to be a disconnect with female talent in the Texas scene. Before people starting starting raising hell, no, I am not saying there is no good female talent. There is an immense level of talent in Texas that have made their presence known. Hell I cover many of them. However, the men tend to dominate in the following size and the larger venues. Artists like Sunny Sweeney and Bri Bagwell have positioned themselves as some of the larger ones in my mind. But there needs to be more that are given a chance on a larger stage. The talent is there, but where is the support? I’m not exactly sure what causes it, but there is an artist that I have been so hooked on recently after seeing a post by JR of The Red Dirt Rebel. Kenna Danielle. This girls got it and I think she’s going to make some serious noise in Texas these next few years.
With the personal feel I work to maintain here, I see the family members of many of these musicians I write or talk about, rally around their loved one. As someone who finds new artists to frequently talk about, it is a balance to stay objective without falling head over heels for artists because of how nice a person they are or the support they receive. Yet, there are some artists that just feel like they are at a different level than many others. It’s a hard feeling to describe, but I’ve learned to trust my gut and when I heard Kenna Danielle’s EP Like A Tumbleweed, my first instinct was, damn. This girl is good. Like real good.
From the first listen I was impressed with Kenna’s vocals and songwriting. Those two things hit me right away and the growth was noticeable from her previous 2014 release Good Reputation. (Check out her song Down At ‘ol Gruene Hall - feat Bri Bagwell for a real good time!) It was apparent that the three years that passed leading to Like A Tumbleweed helped Kenna hone in her sound. The songs shifted to a more mature sound with a refined production. It’s a neo traditional style that many Texas artists have figured out how to crack the code, including Kenna. It’s refreshing because we need youthful artists working to carry the torch for country. What good does name dropping a country legend do if you call your pop music country? What legacy are you leaving other than a higher electricity bill with your electronic drum beats?
Artist like Kenna strive to push their limits by focusing on songs that mean something instead of the materialistic obsession that plagues the airwaves. What happened to country songs that stop and make you think and feel something? A Cross is an exceptional song that is something any of us can relate to while we go about our day. The days we often take for granted so frequently are no guarantee and every cross that lines an American highway is a reminder that life can be over in an instant. All of the stories that are left unfinished and suddenly ended in heartbreak. Kenna pulls from an experience when a family member was nearly killed on I-288 and expresses her gratitude for their survival. One small change and that could have been another cross that everyone drives by. Just taking their day for granted. Business as usual.
The cleverness that makes itself apparent on Meeting Mr. Bojangles is impressive, with nods to Marty Robbins’ El Paso and Jerry Jeff Walker’s Mr. Bojangles. Could it be coincidence? Maybe, but I have a hard time believing it wasn’t carefully thought-out in efforts to weave a narrative about life lessons from an elder. It’s that forgotten art of storytelling in music that has been absent in recent years - let alone the values that the old man passes down over a drink.
With each play through this EP, it is clear to me that Kenna took the time to create a story, not just slap words down on paper. I can’t possibly forget to mentioned the heartbreak filled tune, I-35 Reasons (co-written with Bri Bagwell) where a cheating boyfriend is kicked to the curb. Or Black and Blue where she shares her view on the great divide this country has seen the past few years. Instead of just scraping the surface, she carefully crafted her stories and surrounded them with a solid band that understands how to make these songs come alive. This isn’t pop country, it’s yet another young woman taking her stance in neo-traditional country music. Not all millennials are content with their music sounding like pop and R&B, and Kenna is no exception. Instead of being part of the problem, she’s doing a hell of a job and making sure her name is part of the solution.
Give this one a listen. Big fan.
Just a Massachusetts guy supporting Texas and other independent country/Americana artists.
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