KJ Denhert: Album No. 9

Last time we heard from vocal cyclone KJ Denhert, on a live-from-Umbria session from 2008, she augmented a wide-ranging assortment of originals with three covers. This time she inverts the ratio. Album No. 9‘s trio of originals ably celebrates the breadth of Denhert’s dynamism. In her carefree “Let It Go,” she counsels fellow musicians to go with the flow and embrace the joy of performing. The laidback “Chanson Baz Bar” celebrates her favorite West Indies boîte. The impassioned “Choose Your Weapon,” with its propulsive Bob Marley undercurrent, eloquently argues that the pen (or the microphone, or the blog entry) is mightier than the sword.

Her choice of covers is equally wide-ranging. Hushed readings of “The Shadow of Your Smile” and “Alfie” capture Denhert at her most beautifully meditative. The gentle bounce of her “Pennies From Heaven” seems bathed in contentedness. Lennon and McCartney’s frantic “Help!,” the album’s best display of Denhert’s guitar prowess, is reshaped as a deeply felt ballad, its plaintiveness motivated by the successive disasters that have devastated Haiti. Most inventive is Denhert’s vibrantly soulful re-imagining of Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water,” served up with plenty of Joni Mitchell relish.

As a bonus track, there’s also an unfettered warm-up ramble through “The Shadow of Your Smile,” which Denhert appositely hails as representative of “the very best aspect of freedom.”