24 Jan 2021

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Kendall Elise - Album Review: Red Earth

19 Nov 2020 // A review by Kev Rowland

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to see Looking For Alaska at their album launch, and the opening act that night was Kendall Elise accompanying herself on an acoustic guitar. I enjoyed her set a great deal and was intrigued enough to seek out her debut album, Red Earth, which was released in 2019. Here she is joined by her band The Belgraves, comprising John Segovia (guitars, backing vocals), Robert Scott (bass, backing vocals), Chris Kemp (drums) and Louis Jarlov (keyboards). When I saw her perform, I felt she would be the perfect fit with Miss Peach and The Travellin Bones and I can see that anyone who enjoys the latter’s Sand definitely needs to have this alongside.

There were a few times during Kendall’s performance where I thought it would be better if she had a full band with her, and here she has just that, and it allows her to spread her musical wings so there is more depth and breadth within the music. She says she chose the songs on the album, some of which had been released some time previously, because they are representations of her childhood growing up in Papakura, South Auckland. That may be the case, but this album feels as if it has its roots in America as opposed to Aotearoa, as she moves delicately through styles of blues, country, singer-songwriter, Americana, and folk. She is as content supporting Gin Wigmore as she is Big Country, finding a connection through her music to fans of different genres, always with her vocals at the front, and here often being driven by a powerful band.

Kingseat is a grooving rocker which gets the blood pumping, as one really wants to stomp along to the bassline which is infectious as it repeats the pattern. Over the top of that is some frantic jagged guitar yet Kendall’s delicate vocals smooth it all, although she does let loose the odd scream. It has the same infectious way of moving as The Swinger’s Counting The Beat. The contrast between that and the song which follows it, Great South Road, is immense as here we have a singer baring her soul with delicate picked guitar as support. This song contains a great many long held notes, which shows the confidence in her own vocals as this is not an easy feat, but one she achieves easily.

The highlight for me of her recent gig was the title track of the album, Red Earth, and here it is transformed again into a singalong stomper. This is a song which deserves to be in the live environment, and when the boys join on the chorus it makes this listener smile each and every time. This is solid country, Johnny Cash to the core, and in many ways quite different to the rest of the album, but in some ways that is true for most of the songs. One thing which surprised me when playing this is that there while Kendall sticks to a few genres, the songs themselves are incredibly diverse within that format. This means that one is never quite sure what is going to happen next. I was undertaking some writing the other day when I wasn’t actually reviewing and placed this album on repeat , and due to the changes in musical style throughout it always felt fresh and inviting even though it was on for multiple plays. From the picked opening on Belgrave Place (which also contains some luscious slide guitar) through to the rockabilly raucousness of The Best of Town and Country, Kendall’s voice is always to the fore and The Belgraves provide great support.

This is music with character, a strength, passion, and honesty which is so different to what is often portrayed as popular music. It flows from Kendall’s heart to our ears, and we are all the better for sharing the experience.

Rating: ( 4 / 5 )

About Kendall Elise

Kendall Elise is an intriguing story teller with a hint of yesteryear. With trademark quirky touches and flawless vocal delivery she has been turning heads since the release of her EP in 2017 I Didn’t Stand A Chance . Fresh from touring with Kiwi born, LA based Gin Wigmore and supporting Larkin Poe at their sold out Auckland show.
Her Debut single Heart Full of Dirt was a finalist for the APRA Best Country Music Song 2017.

Kendall Elise has just released her debut album, of which singles The Clock Tower and Valentine Street feature. The album debuted at number 12 on the NZ Music Album Charts.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Kendall Elise


Red Earth
Year: 2019
Type: Album
I Didn't Stand A Chance
Year: 2017
Type: EP

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