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.