The Guardian: Mo Kenney’s new album, ‘The Details’, reveals personal journey

Halifax singer and songwriter Mo Kenney lays her life bare for all to see on The Details, her third record. Kenney produced the record with her long-time friend Joel Plaskett.

By Doug Gallant, The Guardian

Some artists are reluctant to peel back the layers and let you see what’s really going on inside their heads.
Mo Kenney is not one of those artists.
“The Details”, Kenney’s third album, comes as close as any recording I’ve ever heard to putting everything out there for you to see, to experience and to reflect on.
The 14 songs on this deeply personal set detail a series of events in Kenney’s life when she was going through what must have been one hell of a rough patch.
Holding back little, if anything, the Halifax- based singer/songwriter addresses relationships in her life that have fallen apart, her experiences with depression, emotional breakdowns fuelled by the excessive use of alcohol and the impact all of this was having on her as a person and as an artist.
While that may sound a trifle dark — on “Punchy” for example she sings about being punched in the face at a bar by some jackass — there is also a light at the end of the tunnel as Kenney deals with the hand she’s been dealt. She ultimately comes through it all and comes through it a stronger person for the experience.
Producing a concept album that connects all the dots in your life can be a daunting task but Kenney has serious writing chops, as she so aptly demonstrated on her eponymous debut record in 2012 and her sophomore effort “In My Dreams” in 2014.
The “Details” packs a lot of emotions into a record that runs just over 30 minutes.
It is a record of many moods, many colours and many shades and there are more than a few moments when you wonder how she made it through to the other side at all.
And the music underneath all of this is every bit as interesting as the lyrics Kenney penned to tell her story.
There’s a fair bit of flat-out rock’n’roll, a smattering of psychedelia, some dreamy pop music and some zippy stuff that reminds me just a little bit of Joan Jett. Some records take a little time to grow on you but “The Details” got me the first go round and tracks like “On The Roof”, “Unglued”, “I Can’t Wait” and the all-too-brief “Counting” brought me back for more.
And the more I went back the better the experience became because I began to hear new things, things I didn’t hear the first time through. Perhaps I got so wrapped up in the lyrics I missed some of the things that were happening musically. [READ MORE]

Plunger Music: Canadian chiaroscuro bewitches the Green Note …

By Plunger Music

Nova Scotia’s Mo Kenney brought an intriguing mix of light and shade in her set that held the Camden crowd rapt in total silence. The solo setting meant the songs, more usually delivered with a band on record, were as stark, spare and intense as the spotlit artist herself, but just as entrancing.

With only her guitar and voice to work with Mo still conjured a broad palette of colours and emotions, often blurred and blended within the same song. Opener I Faked It saw delicate acoustic picking and a breathy drawl deliver a sardonic bitter break up lyric, and that disconnect was apparent elsewhere, in Field Song’s hazy, smoky vox and mesmeric picking, and in the Look What They’ve Done-style rag of The Happy Song with its humming and whistling belying the distinctly unhappy subject.

Mo’s mesmeric musical box picking added an eerie childhood vibe to many of the songs: the almost Trumpton-like refrain of Eden; the bright hypnotic Take Me Outside, where dark desperation seemed to lurk beneath the soft upbeat vocal; while the brittle crystalline accompaniment of Carnivore hid more dark inspiration in the loss of an old schoolmate. There were interesting unexpected harmonies and progressions in a dark Vega-ish Mountains To The Mess and the unsettling folky Dancing, another number where a hidden undercurrent slowly revealed itself in Mo’s intensifying emotion-laden breaking vox, climaxing in a very effective left-hanging ending.

Bringing more light were the bustling Greenwich Village folk of The Great Escape and the girlish playground melody of Sucker, in the impassioned In My Lungs and its segue partner the almost-Everlys punchily-strummed Déjà Vû and the intimate, impromptu-feel of the lilting In My Dreams. showing the more indie flavours of much her albums were ‘If You’re Not Dead’, an urgent Martha & The Muffinsy rocker with hints of Message In A Bottle, a bouncy Unglued with an anthemic coda, and Mo’s self-confessed poppy cover of fellow Nova Scotians Mardeen’s Telephones. [READ MORE]

[Mo’s latest album The Details is available to buy here.

Inverness Scene: “It felt right to reveal a little more about myself”

Canadian singer-songwriter Mo Kenney has a history with the highlands – her debut self-titled album was released through the north of Scotland’s Middle of Nowhere record label. Now, as she returns for a date at the Tooth and Claw on Saturday, now on her third album, Mo talks to Kyle Walker about returning to the region, going electric, and finding catharsis through songwriting

By Kyle Walker, Inverness Scene

Are you looking forward to playing the Tooth and Claw?

Really looking forward to playing the Tooth and Claw! It’ll be my first stop on this upcoming tour.

How would you describe yourself, your sound and your live performance style to a new audience?

I would describe my sound as a mix of pop/rock/folk. It’s tough to accurately describe. I’ll be touring solo with my acoustic guitar. It’ll be an intimate bunch of shows.

I understand there’s already a Highlands connection for you – your first self-titled album was released by Middle of Nowhere Records, based here. How did that come about? Have you got any other fond memories or connections to the region?

I was introduced to Middle of Nowhere Records by my friend Rachel Sermanni. We met at a folk conference in Toronto years ago, and she was kind enough to bring me over to the UK to open some of her shows.

This new album – The Details – is a far different beast to that debut. For one thing, you’ve gone electric! What was the catalyst?

I’ve always been partial to playing electric guitar. I began playing music on my acoustic guitar because it was the easiest set up logistically. I felt right with this record (my third) to dig into the more rock side of what I do. I co-produced this record with my friend and mentor Joel Plaskett, which was a first for me.

The album deals with some dark emotions. How did the album come together for you?

Writing has always been very cathartic for me as my songs are usually very personal. It felt right to reveal a little bit more about myself with this third album. It’s been interesting and rewarding to have people tell me their own experiences after hearing my record.

The album deals with some dark emotions. Did creating this album help you process and deal with this time in your life (and how)? How did the album come together for you?

Writing has always been very cathartic for me as my songs are usually very personal. I have always used it much as a way to communicate myself to others and understand myself. It felt right to reveal a little bit more about myself with this third album. It’s been interesting and rewarding to have people tell me their own experiences after hearing my record.

Looking more generally at your work as an artist, what inspired you to go into music and songwriting? Has your initial motivation changed or evolved since you first started writing and performing?

As far back as I can remember I have really loved music. I began playing guitar at 11 and fell in love. I love the feeling of creating art. If it has an element of creativity to it, I’ll probably like it.

What has been the best gig you’ve played so far? The worst? The weirdest?

The best gig I’ve played so far was in my hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia. I had the opportunity to play with the Symphony Nova Scotia as part of the festival the Halifax Pop Explosion. Worst gig I’ve played was probably at a bank. Weirdest gig also would have to be the bank gig.

What has been the nicest thing that somebody had said about your Music?

The nicest thing to hear is that someone has related to my music, or that it has helped them in some way. That is the best part for me.

The Details

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1. Cat’s Not A Cake
2. On The Roof
3. Details
4. June 3rd
5. Maybe I Am
6. Counting
7. Out The Window
8. If You’re Not Dead
9. Unglued
10. I Can’t Wait
11. Video Game Music
12. Lights Out
13. Punchy
14. Feelin’ Good

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With her third album, The Details, Mo Kenney traces her own strange, devastating, and ultimately hopeful trip through the trials and tribulations of booze-fuelled breakdowns, clouds of depression, and disintegrating relationships. On each of its 14 tracks, she unflinchingly confronts her annihilation and eventual redemption, leaving nothing out. The concept album is her most personal and cohesive work to date—combining elements of bruising rock ’n’ roll, vivid psychedelia, and haunting, left-of-the-dial pop, Kenney navigates the darkest waters in her life with self-deprecation, genuine soul-baring, and typical black humour. It opens with a calm before the storm as the eerie sadness of “Cat’s Not a Cake”—about splitting a beloved pet in half as a relationship falls apart—provides a deceptively gentle beginning to a ride that swiftly steers into self-destruction.

Following up with the off-the-rails overdrive of “On The Roof,” The Details explodes out of the gate, finding Kenney unable to escape the dangerous spiral she finds herself in. Before and during writing the album, Kenney was en route to rock bottom: depressed with dark blues and drinking like a fish, unable to hold herself or her relationships together, alienating the people she loves, and living hell-bent on oblivion. She comes to terms with her own toxic behaviour while channeling the late Elliott Smith through spectral atmospheres on “June 3rd.” With “Maybe I Am”—a reverb-soaked tune that turns to punchy guitar riffs—she realizes in the midst of trying to hook up with someone that she can’t interact with humans properly. The hazy, laid back calm of “Counting” finds her worried she’s fallen so far into despair that she’s losing her mind. And the vicious, rollicking “If You’re Not Dead” shows her playing warped mind games over feral guitar solos and biting hooks.

Somewhere along the way, Kenney finds herself dazed and broken in a place that not many people find their way back from. “Unglued,” with its breezy sway, is likely the most summery song put to tape about being fed up with your own messy self. “I Can’t Wait” recalls the gauzy dreamscapes of Yo La Tengo with a hushed and grateful understanding that as bad as things are, it’s not the end of the world. But it’s not necessarily smooth sailing from there, as Kenney struggles to stay optimistic with “Lights Out,” and sings about getting clocked in the face at a bar by some meathead during “Punchy.” Still, she can’t help but find the hilarity in getting slugged, slyly laughing through her bloody teeth the whole time.

Finally, she arrives in less troubled seas, closing softly on the sparse, clear-minded “Feelin’ Good.” The storms weathered to get there may be the kind that leave lasting scars (or at least a few post-bar stitches), but with clear skies on the horizon, Kenney wears those scars as a reminder of what she’s been through, and the kind of seasons in hell she’s capable of enduring. Her latest is a record of all those storms and the routes and detours and trials of pushing through them while keeping her sense of humour gracefully intact. By turns rowdy, reflective, brave, funny, and deeply honest, it signals an already accomplished songwriter coming fully and completely into her own as an artist. Produced by Mo Kenney and Joel Plaskett, The Details vividly documents Kenney’s fight to survive her own worst enemy—herself.

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March 29th, 2018
Casino Nova Scotia Schooner Room
Halifax, NS
Bruce Guthro's Songwriter's Circle
8:00 PM
Featuring Mo Kenny, David Myles & Adam Baldwin
19+ Show
Buy Tickets
March 31st, 2018
Casino Nova Scotia Schooner Room
Halifax, NS
Bruce Guthro's Songwriter's Circle
8:00 PM
Featuring Mo Kenny, David Myles & Adam Baldwin
19+ Show
Buy Tickets
May 26th, 2018
Union Street Cafe & The Wick Pub
Berwick,, NS
8:00 PM
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June 30th, 2018
Truro Civic Square
Truro, NS
7:00 PM
Mo Kenney with Alert The Medic and Joel Plaskett Emergency
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July 5th, 2018
Winnipeg Folk Festival
Winnipeg, Manitoba
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July 6th, 2018
Winnipeg Folk Festival
Winnipeg, Manitoba
12:00 AM
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July 7th, 2018
Winnipeg Folk Festival
Winnipeg, Manitoba
12:00 AM
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July 8th, 2018
Winnipeg Folk Festival
Winnipeg, Manitoba
12:00 AM
Buy Tickets


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