Dawn Kenney
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Dawn Kenney

Waltham, Massachusetts, United States

Waltham, Massachusetts, United States
Country Americana

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"From Song Circle To Carnegie Hall"

One of the best parts about IBMA’s World of Bluegrass conference is you never know who you’ll meet around the next corner, or who will show up playing in a throw-together band.

Two years ago, I dropped by an after-hours showcase to hear Stacy Grubb, a West Virginia songwriter who is the daughter of a bass-playing friend. Her band, put together for the show, included Ron Block on banjo and Sierra Hull on mandolin. Great band. Great show.

Last year, I dropped by the release party for Clay Hess’s first solo project, Rain. Ron and Sierra were in that band, too, along with Adam Steffey, Aaron Ramsey and other stars. Again, great band. Great show.

Also last year, I met Dawn Kenney at an informal late-night songwriter’s circle. She was friendly, ernest and incredibly talented. That’s not unusual, by any means. In Nashville, chances are even the hotel window washer is a first-rate songwriter. But as a songwriter myself, I was drawn to her writing.

So last night, I dropped by the Boston Bluegrass Union’s after-hours showcase to hear Dawn play the kickoff set. And I accidentally stumbled across another one of those accidental bands, including Louisa Branscomb on mandolin and Jeanette Williams on bass, Brandon Godman on fiddle and Richard Cifersky on banjo.

The short set featured cuts from Dawn’s recently released EP, Sing Me Home. Dawn’s singing, alone, would have carried the show. But the sweet harmonies from Louisa and Jeanette made the showcase all the more compelling.

The highlight for me was the title cut, a gospel number Dawn wrote after losing a relative to Alzheimer’s. The showcase, in front of a full house in a small conference room, will be good practice for an upcoming performance in front of a bigger audience. On Nov. 30, the New England songbird will perform Sing Me Home at Carnegie Hall.

And I’ll be able to say I knew her when.
- Bluegrass Today, September 25, 21012


"Dawn Kenney"

Friday, December 28, 2007
Dawn Kenney - CD Review
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Dawn Kenney is a singer/songwriter living in the Boston area. She’s been around a while, performing bluegrass, country, and folk music in coffee houses and folk clubs in Rhode Island before moving to the Boston area. She worked in sound engineering while playing with rock bands and women’s bands during the 1980’s, before pursuing a career in business for a time. Later she returned to her first love bluegrass, country music, folk, and Americana. She appeared at the Falcon Ridge Emerging Artist Showcase in July of 2007. “Feel That Light” is her first recording, a collection of seven songs she wrote and performs. This CD, backed by a good bluegrass band, contains only seven songs, all written by Kenney, and should, perhaps, be viewed more as a demo recording than a full fledged showcase of Dawn’s capability. In it she displays a range of subject matter and her very fine voice in a thoughtfully arranged collection of her own songs.

Hide Away is a domestic song. The singer awakes on Monday morning with her husband beside her, lying in bed together feeling each other’s warmth in the moments before the alarm goes off and they each must face the day ahead

Hide away, hide away,
In this whole big world there’s only just one place
Daily life and all its trouble slips away,
Come and take me in your arms, let’s hide away.

The simple ballad resonates with the security of home and family portrayed in Kenney’s warm, melodious voice. The chores of the day each of us must face are mitigated by the sense of the couple’s looking forward to a “stolen moment still to come.”

Who Shot John Cyrus, a bluegrass murder ballad with a twist provides a solid contrast to the first song.

Who shot John Cyrus with his gun this morning? Who let his dog out the door?
Who relieved this town of half its pain and sorrow? He’s gone and won’t be coming back no more.

The song continues, in the style of murder ballads, to sketch out a series of nasty crimes as well as an assertion of his being rotten to the core “since age eleven.” The singer views the world from her place as a waitress at the local diner, watching the town’s reaction to John Cyrus. Instrumental solos by Rich Stillman on banjo and Phil Bloch on fiddle are effective and showcase this song as belonging to bluegrass. With the line “The women of this town protect their own,” Kenney suggests a feminist tone that without rancor or anger still reflects a clear posture found in many of the songs.


Reach High can be heard as a song of faith, a proto gospel song using the metaphor of a tree in a meadow to stand for nature, the creator, the overarching universal soul.
Feel that light when it shines all around you,
Reach high up into the sky,
Dig deep, plant roots into things that ground you,
Take time; don’t let life pass you by.
Reach High.
In this song, Dawn uses her soaring mid-range voice to capture the majesty and mystery of the tree. Her melody aptly complements her voice and intention. The song inspires as it captures the listeners imagination and spirit. The tree is characterized as a mother figure who embodies home and family as well as strength to cope with the storms of life by helping us to bend and sway with life’s stresses and strains. Some might object to the lack of specific religious reference in this song, but the strong spiritual sense and metaphorical emphasis make it clear to those who want to see it.


A haunting love song, Walls Between Us captures pain of lost communication in a long-term relationship.
So now why must we build walls between us?
Though that only tears us apart?
Can’t you see how my soul is just achin’
To be with you back safe in your heart?

The song fits solidly into the country love song genre of lost love that could be resurrected if he would only reach out. The search for safety and togetherness is palpable in Kenney’s voice.


That’s God Talking speaks of the hypocrisy of organized religion in the face of encountering the eternal in the beauty of nature.
But I look around me, that’s where I find it,
In the glistening of the morning dew,
You hear that bird sing? Now that’s God talking,
And it’s in your eyes, that light in you.

The singer receives this wisdom from her beloved Grandfather, as they walk and talk. Finding the human connection with the woods, the sky, and the earth, he shares his love of life and its beauty with her. As with Reach High, this song communicates a kind of deism more native to New England than some devoted to Bible based gospel songs might find comfortable, nevertheless, this is a lovely song capturing the ranging quest of the human spirit.



Gonna Make Me Fall is another bluegrass song in the “your bad for me, but I love you anyway” mode. The singer speaks of looking into his eyes and knowing that there’s trouble ahead and going down the road anyway, even though she reco - Ted Lehman, Bluegrass Blog


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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*November 30, 2012 - Performing at Carnegie Hall, NYC: 'Tim Janis The American Christmas Carol'. Benefit Concert for Kate Winslet's Golden Hat Foundation with: Sarah McLachlan, Loreena McKennitt, Andrea Corr & Hayley Westenra.
(http://www.carnegiehall.org/Calendar/2012/11/30/0700/PM/Tim-Janis-The-American-Christmas-Carol/)

*September 24, 2012 - IBMA 'World of Bluegrass', Nashville, TN - BBU Showcase Performance. (http://bluegrasstoday.com/from-song-circle-to-carnegie-hall/)

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Raised on the traditional country greats, Dawn Kenney has been making music since before she could walk. Her music resonates with echos of the Grand Old Opry. She brings her love of bluegrass, country, folk and gospel music woven together to create her own unique genre defying sound. With a voice that can soar to the rafters one moment and then bathe you in a soft warmth the next, Dawn's performances create intimate connections with her audiences that keep them coming back. Her voice is expressive and dynamic, conveying the full range of emotion that she delivers in her songs. With messages that are positive and uplifting, her songs speak of life; relationships, family, faith and those things common to the human experience that are true to all of us.

Threaded through the fabric of a Dawn Kenney show are superbly crafted original songs, with hints of the the traditional music she loves, written from a contemporary perspective. From energetic hard driving tunes to hauntingly beautiful ballads, Dawn brings a range of music highlighted by upright bass, tasteful banjo, sweet fiddle and her own acoustic guitar. Even at an outdoor festival she is able to create a down home living room atmosphere that leave those there feeling like they have spent an evening with an old friend.

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"2012 - Selected as NERFA Quadcentric Showcase Artist"
- NERFA, North East Regional Folk Alliance (Oct 02, 2012)

2010 - Dawn's songs selected for the final round of consideration in the first Podunk Bluegrass Festival Songwriters Competition, Hardford, CT

2008 Winner - North American Country Music Organization, International, Bluegrass Band of the Year

2008 Winner - North American Country Music Organization, International, Most Promising Songwriter Of the Year for "That's God Talking"

*Selected for the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival Emerging Artist Showcase, Friday, July 27th, 2007, Hillsdale, NY
2007 New England Country Music Organization Band Of The Year, Bluegrass

2007 New England Country Music Organization Songwriter Of The Year, Bluegrass, for "Who Shot John Cyrus?"

2007 New England Country Music Organization Most Promising Songwriter Of The Year, Bluegrass, for "That's God Talking"

American Songwriter Magazine, issue July/August 2007, Lyric Award for "Who Shot John Cyrus?".