Kinin's self-titled debut CD contains 11 tracks of traditional and original songs and tunes with a stark, rough-edged yet appealing sound.
The duo is Pete Millard (cittern, guitar and lead vocals) and Sarah Cheffins (fiddle). Producer Gina LeFaux and engineer Paul Whittaker provide background vocals on the final track, Stuart Marson's poignant "Too Close to the Wind."
Millard's voice is plaintive with a touch of a nasal twang, well-suited to most of the songs. His performance on "By the Hush" and Skewball" is particularly effective, as is his reworking of "The Banks of Red Roses." His vocals are most powerful in his own composition "Famine or Greed," which touches on the potato blight but points out that there were people who had good homes and plenty to eat but who were indifferent to those who were homeless and starving. It's a biting song, enhanced by Millard's delivery, and it's very clear that, 150 years later, indifference to suffering is alive and well.
Cheffins' fiddle winds its way through Millard's songs, sometimes serving as the only accompaniment, as in the light-hearted but pointed "Miss Bailey." She has one track all to herself, a Scandinavian piece called "Hook olla Storpolska." Her style is robust with a firm attack, and I would love to hear more from her. Millard's cittern and guitar provide a solid accent and work well with the fiddle.
The overall quality is very good except that I didn't care for Kinin's interpretation of "Rocky Road to Dublin." The vocals and fiddle clash, and Millard seems to be deliberately lagging behind the beat, then rushing to catch up; no matter how many times I listened to the track, it just wouldn't grow on me. Perhaps it's a technique that appeals to some listeners, but I found it jarring. Millard fares better with "The Lakes of Ponchartrain" and far better with "The Flower of Magherally." The closing track is emotionally powerful in its gentle lullaby-like rendition, and it's the perfect close to the CD.
Kinin brings an original and fresh artistry to their arrangements, and it will be a pleasure to see where their talents take them.
[ by Donna Scanlon ]