Jen Kearney & The Lost Onion
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Jen Kearney & The Lost Onion

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | SELF

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | SELF
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Behold a small Wonder: Lowell’s Jen Kearney
By Larry Katz
Boston Herald Music Critic

Wednesday, November 1, 2006 - Updated: 07:39 AM EST

Take it from me. Listening to dozens of new CDs week after week can get frustrating. There’s no end of rappers yapping to the same beat, heavy-metal dudes shrieking and shredding, r & b singers trying to be the new Luther or Beyonce, cookie-cutter country singers, and indie pop bands trying to out-cool each other.

Where’s the good stuff?

And then you chance upon a CD that lights up the pleasure center in your brain - and you know why you invest all those hours searching through the CD haystack.

A few weeks ago, I found gold during a marathon listening session. Actually, I wasn’t listening all that carefully. I grabbed a CD off the top of my pile, put it on and walked out of the room.



After a few minutes of not paying attention, a voice penetrated my consciousness. Stevie Wonder? Not quite. But something close to the wondrous flavor of prime ’70s Stevie. I’m hearing inklings of the funky Latin groove thing of “Don’t You Worry ’Bout a Thing.” Who is this guy?

Two shocks ensued. The guy with the young Stevie voice wasn’t a guy. It’s a woman named Jen Kearney. Her CD, “Eat,” credited to Jen Kearney and the Lost Onion, didn’t contain much in the way of clues about her, but it did supply a Web address. Which delivered shock No. 2: She wasn’t some hot newcomer from New York or Los Angeles. She lives in Lowell.

“I grew up in Hingham,” Kearney told me earlier this week. “I went to music school at the University of Lowell, as it used to be called. South Shore to North Shore. My big exotic migration.”

Kearney qualifies as a well-kept local secret. That’s what happens to talented people who pursue a course unrelated to popular trends. Kearney not only sings, but plays electric piano and writes smart, sharp songs such as “Patience Child,” which opens with the arresting command, “Oh girl, put down that fashion magazine, it makes you tired.”

“I’m honored and flattered when people mention Stevie Wonder,” Kearney said. “I was a big fan of soul music and Motown, growing up. I don’t seek to emulate anybody, but it just rubbed off on me.”

She comes from a musical family.

“My grandfather played violin. He came over from Sicily and was offered a scholarship to New England Conservatory, but he had to turn it down to sell vegetables at Haymarket, which is what he’s doing on the picture on the cover of (my) CD. My uncle Sal is a piano player. He showed me and my brother how to play when we were kids, and he end up giving me a Fender Rhodes 15 years ago.”

Sicily, soul, OK. But where does the Latin undertow in her music come from?

“I went to culinary school after music school. I wanted to be a chef. I had a job at a bakery and had to get up at 3 a.m. The only thing on the radio was a station that played Cuban and Afro-Latin music and I just totally fell in love with it. Then I met Yahuba, our percussion player, who’s from Puerto Rico, and he taught me a lot.”
Kearney has a gig tomorrow at Felt, one of her sporadic Boston appearances. But with a spring tour of the Southeast planned and her music spreading via the Internet, she’s looking to take the next step.

“Yeah, I’m ready,” she said, “Any day, any time someone wants to put us on a tour bus.”
Larry Katz - The Boston Herald (Nov 1, 2006)
- The Boston Herald


The album. A lost art? Not according to Lowell's Jen Kearney and the Lost Onion. From the opening retro groove of Born, each of the 13 songs on Year of the Ox transitions into the next with instrumental interludes as silky and funky as anything by the Ohio Players. Upon hearing about David Carradine's sad and mysterious end last week, I've been feeling a little nostalgic, Kung Fu not only being my favorite TV series of the early 70's, but also substituting as my religion for a few years. With the slick sounds of Year of the Ox blaring in the headphones, I've been dizzily transported back to when Stevie Wonder's Living in the City and the O'Jays Backstabbers ruled the airwaves, blending funky grooves with socio/political themes. And with a voice that rivals Stevie Wonder and Eddie Levert in power and soul, Jen Kearney delivers the goods with a passion and conviction that leaves no question she's one of the best female vocalists singing right now. Equally as impressive are the lush, layers of R&B background vocals which glaze every song with a warm blast of sunshine. To the Moon, with its funky Fender Rhodes piano intro, guitar and bass counter melody and a two note horn part that is a lesson in understated perfection, is the standout track, simmering into an infectious chorus you'll find yourself basking in for days. Other notable tracks include Prime Meridian which begins as a simple piano waltz and erupts into a full blown anthem worthy of an arena sized venue, and Trudge, a gospel flavored lament on the hooky lyric "Trudge as you may, try as you might." Simply beautiful. The musicianship is top notch throughout notably the vintage sounds of Carl Johnson's guitar work and Dan Abreu's stellar tenor sax playing.

If you're growing a little tired of downloading songs, and if you find yourself longing for the days of the LP, you owe it to yourself to get your hands on Year of the Ox. It is one special album. JKLO continue to celebrate the release of Year of the Ox at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge this Thursday night. Should be one mind altering trip down memory lane and into the future.
- The Lowell Sun


Alan Chase's Jazz Universe | Print | E-mail
Written by Alan Chase
Friday, 07 August 2009
In the last few weeks, several promising new recordings have come my way. From the Boston area, there’s “The Year of the Ox,” the second effort from exceptional singer-songwriter and keyboardist Jen Kearney and her band The Lost Onion. Whereas her first very strong CD was geared toward groove oriented jams, this compelling new recording places greater emphasis on shorter song forms. This isn’t a jazz recording, per se, but elements of jazz inform Kearney’s music, along with Latin, funk, soul and rock.


What’s particularly striking is the story-like quality of Kearney’s lyrics and how she wraps them in just the right musical textures. According to Kearney, this is a concept recording based on the symbol of the ox, one of the Chinese astrological signs, and the 10 ox herding pictures created in ancient Buddhism. All the songs are loosely based on the 10 pictures and what they represent.


From a musical standpoint, what you get is a sonic ride from the opening funk groove of “Born” to the soulful “Succotash Blue” to the folk influenced “Gentle and Precise” to the jazz-fusion groove of “Lunar Interlude.” Kearney’s powerful but nuanced vocal work captures your attention and holds your interest as she tells her story. Her exceptional band navigates varied styles with ease, anchored by the powerhouse rhythm section of bassist Brian Coakley, drummer Pete McLean (of Organism and Freelance Bishops fame) and the always superb Yahuba Garcia on percussion. The excellent horn section is anchored by saxophonist Dan Abreu, who gets off an incredible solo on “Lunar Interlude.”


I do wish I could hear more of Kearney’s exceptional keyboard work. She plays a very melodically imaginative solo on “Succotash Blue” that shows she has exceptional skill. Hopefully, a little more of this will show through on future releases.


To purchase the CD, visit www.jenkearney.com. To see Kearny and the Lost Onion live, head to the Blue Mermaid in Portsmouth on Thursday, Aug. 13, or The Stone Church in Newmarket on Aug. 27.
- The Wire


Lowell musician Jen Kearney’s latest work blends jazz riffs, latin rhythms, Motown grooves and a rock n’ roll sensibility into one cohesive album that should be savored like a fine meal, not scarfed down like a drive-through cheeseburger at 2 a.m. after a Saturday night out.

“The Year of the Ox” is a concept album where the songs were carefully crafted and then put together in a specific order.

Kearney’s voice has been compared to Stevie Wonder and on this album it sometimes sounds like him; sometimes like a young, screechy Michael Jackson; sometimes like a booming Joan Armatrading; and sometimes it’s uniquely her. But the music that accompanies her is truly original, blending a mixture of sounds including jazz flute with Motown saxophone, latin drums, and caressing backup vocals.

A good example is the masterpiece of the album: “Gentle and Precise.” This song is put together and built like a (pick one) masterful oil painting; a finely-tuned European sports car; or a gourmet stew; with many different things going on at once. But the arrangement by Kearney is flawless and it works.

It starts out with a riff reminiscent of Miles Davis, heads into a mariachi trumpet sound, and then Kearney’s deep strong voice belts out, “Busy fools building shrines, Got a high education, But can’t seem to lift up their minds.” Her staccato inflection is then buoyed by a crescendo of soothing backup vocals. You hear all of these rhythms and melodies at once and you can’t help but smile (and maybe even dance).

Twelve musicians play a variety of instruments which makes this a very different album. There’s a trumpet, a flugelhorn, tenor sax, flute, trombone, violin and viola to go along with the standard lead guitar, drums, bass and keyboards. There is also something called a cuica and talking drum and a theremin, which provides some of the other-worldly sounds.

Other highlights include the songs:

“To the Moon”: This song has a funky groove with a bopping bass line layed down by Brian Coakley, followed later by some jazz flute by Dan Abreu that sounds reminiscent of Tito Puente’s band.
“Succotash Blue”: Kearny sounds like a young Michael Jackson here with a nice jam session towards the end.
“Bossa Nova Stereo”: Opens like a song from the Buena Vista Social Club album and ends with a bossa nova beat. Nice lyrics about a wise woman giving her advice: “She said you’ll never find peace thinking the way you think, It’s not in a man, in a pill or a drink, Keep rolling along, Keep writing your song, And you’ll learn baby.”
The main theme that runs through this album is the desire for self-improvement and the pull of nature (specifically the moon) vs our free will. Kearney uses these primitive concepts to take us on a wild musical ride into what makes us human.

(”The Year of the Ox” is available on CD at CDBaby and for download at Amazon.com.)

(Discover more roots music in the Music section.)
Mark Micheli - Rootsliving.com (Sep 3, 2009) - Rootsliving.com


Jen Kearney's improvement has been steady and exquisite. Her versatility is outstanding, whether it's on rock-edged material that she pulls from the heart, or R&B-infused songs that she pulls from the soul.''
-- STEVE MORSE, a longtime Boston Globe correspondent who has also contributed to Billboard and Rolling Stone - Freelance Writer (Nov 12, 2009)
- Boston Globe


Discography

On Fire- 1999
Bravery- 2002
EAT- 2006 (active on Pandora Radio)
The Year of the Ox-2009 (active on Pandora Radio)

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Bio

Jen Kearney & The Lost Onion are an original soul/funk/latin/rock band from the Lowell/Boston, Massachusetts area. Their sound has been described as “Stevie Wonder goes to Cuba”. With the release of two full-length albums: "EAT" and "The Year of the Ox", Jen Kearney and the Lost Onion have gained fans locally and around the globe. JKLO have shared stages with The Derek Trucks Band, Los Lobos, Daryl Hall, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, The Ryan Montbleau Band, Max Creek, Strangefolk, Johnny A, De Sol, among others,. Their music has been featured on WZLX and WFNX in Boston, KSPN in CO, and Pandora Radio.