Kenny Eng is doing his own thing.
He made this perfectly clear with the independent release of his debut EP "Self Centered" in June of 2008. And "Self Centered" was no average collection of songs from the stereotypic, starry-eyed troubadour. These self-penned songs were intelligent, challenging and mature both musically and lyrically and the complexity of these songs made Kenny an immediate standout in the singer/songwriter community.
But Kenny's ability to move in and out of different genres of music and his budding virtuosity were only touched upon on his first record. He spent the next 18 months honing his skills and building his reputation as a uniquely talented performer all over the West Coast. In early 2010, he released "Live From Lestat's", a compilation of two shows from Lestat's West in San Diego, CA. This release showcased his impressive development as a solo-performer and features five new songs from his upcoming full-length album.
If you were to tell the Alameda, CA native that one day he'd be a musician that has performed in some of the most respected venues on the West Coast, he wouldn't believe you. He'd say he was "too shy, not good enough," or at the very least, "not ready." Fast forward to the present and Kenny would still say that he isn't as good as he could be. But that hasn't prevented him from performing with nationally recognized performers nor has it deterred fans, critics and other musicians from noticing his musical talent.
What makes Kenny different from so many other artists is the fact that his sound is so hard to categorize. He is equal parts Motown R&B, classic rock and Jeff Buckley but not really any of them at the same time. He can shift from the dark, ominous landscape heard on "The Tongue" to the whimsical, light-hearted "If I See You Again" in a split second. And his own musical tastes are just as varied. At any given performance, Kenny could perform songs by The Beatles to Bill Withers to Radiohead without even batting an eye.
Kenny is doing his own thing. He is a strictly independent artist who is practically impossible to categorize. He has two critically acclaimed EPs added to his already impressive resume with another full-length album on the way. He is determining his own career by letting his talent take him where he wants to go. And most importantly, he refuses to be complacent. With his track record, it would be difficult to determine what Kenny will do next but he can be counted on to make it worth your while to pay attention.
Kenny has performed with many major acts including Jason Mraz and Eric Hutchinson. He has also performed with many prominent independent artists like Bushwalla, Tony Lucca, Ernie Halter and David Choi.
For more information, visit: www.kennyeng.com
Kenny Eng - Vocals, Guitar, Songwriter
Rodney Jones - Drums
Jeff Johnson - Bass
Keith Adams - Guitar
Self Centered- Released 2008
Live from Lestat's- Released 2010
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Kenny Eng's new CD Self Centered is a collection of six songs, arranged mainly around his vocals an... Kenny Eng's new CD Self Centered is a collection of six songs, arranged mainly around his vocals and acoustic guitar. He has a pleasant voice that is more than up to the task of carrying the melody. He takes an effortless approach to singing, never obscuring the words with overly showy technique. Additional instruments are added for nuance and effect, largely leaving the rhythmic duties to the guitar. Occasional synthesizer washes, light percussion, and subtle cello lines add subliminal texture to the album's uncluttered arrangements. It's all recorded and mixed very nicely, giving emphasis to the most important tracks. Effects are wisely kept to a minimum, preserving the natural sound of the performances. There is a lot of space in the music, allowing it to breathe.
The songs themselves fit squarely into the singer-songwriter category with lyrics that are personal and introspective. Eng makes some interesting choices when it comes to chords and melodies, and it is perhaps these that make the songs distinctive. There is a pleasing flow to the music, even though the songwriting avoids being predictable. The overall sound of the CD is quiet and reflective. One can easily imagine these tunes being performed on the coffeehouse circuit with just the singer and his guitar. The first cut, "Who Says," sounds a bit like an undiscovered song that America might have recorded in their heyday. In fact, the same could probably be said about a number of the songs. I'd be willing to bet that they, along with other classic acoustic acts like James Taylor and Cat Stevens, are influences.
For the most part, the music tends toward a mid-tempo pace, lending the project an easygoing feel, even when the lyrics get a little dark. He can be self-deprecating without being self-pitying. For the most part, one gets the impression that Eng is an observer and commentator on life, searching for meaning where he can find it. One notable song is the brightly wistful "If I See You Again," whose jazz chords and sunny melody bump along at a more sprightly pace. Eng is a solid guitarist who navigates his intricate chord progressions with confidence and fluidity.
While I completely understand where Eng is coming from on an artistic level, I did find myself craving a bit more variety in the arrangements. He and his collaborator Aaron Bowen play directly to the strengths of the music, but in my opinion they might have taken fuller advantage of the studio environment. Light percussion and possibly some bass could have lent an entirely new feel to a couple of the songs. An occasional harmony vocal or instrumental solo could have brought extra dimension to the music. The extra production touches that do exist on the album are good, and I felt they could have gone a little further with them without detracting from the vocal and guitar. However this is only a minor quibble. The choices they made work quite well. This is an easily likeable collection of songs, delivered with earnestness and emotion.
Clean production, melodic music
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Local singer-songwriter Kenny Eng's debut is a bit of an oddity in the current singer-songwriter env...Local singer-songwriter Kenny Eng's debut is a bit of an oddity in the current singer-songwriter environment: He actually plays on record with roughly the same setup as he does in his shows at county coffee houses: Guitar. Voice. The only additional instruments he dragged into the studio are a cello on two tracks to add some low-end depth, and producer Aaron Bowen's own acoustic guitar. Otherwise, this six-song EP is how you'd hear Eng when he's playing live.
With more and more singer-songwriters dressing their recordings up with all kinds of gear they never bring to a show, it's refreshing experience to hear a CD that reflects the artist's live show.
It's a solid performance here, too: Eng has an expressive voice, and his half-dozen songs all have a pleasant vibe to them. It's a mellow sort of folk-rock, but with definite elements of alternative. Eng clearly values melody, and has a good knack at turning them out.
Typical 60 minute set:
6-8 songs from EP
1-2 unreleased songs
There are no upcoming dates at this time.