Kindred Music (2013)
From the Kansas City area but with family roots in Liberia, West Africa, singer-songwriter Queyonoh Kweh (pron. Queena Kway) released her debut album, Tears 4 Fears, this summer.
Queyonoh has a distinctively musky voice evocative of R&B and soul chanteuse Macy Gray. Her songs have a pop sensibility enveloped in smooth jazz arrangements. The melodies reflect the diversity of her music inspirations, which run from Fred Hammond and the Winans to Roberta Flack and Anita Baker. Lyrically, her songs express a personal journey from fear and struggle to the arms of God, none more acutely than on the title track.
The melodies have a uniformity that match Queyonoh’s vocal range, which doesn’t stray too far north or south of the middle of the stave. This is most evident on “This Love,” a song that features the dynamic Torrey Isaac who makes easy work of the gospel scale.
The album’s lead single, “A Friend,” is where everything comes together. The song is simple, not crowded lyrically, and delivered with more confidence by Queyonoh and her background vocalists than any other song on the album. One exception is “A Man Named Jesus,” featuring a strong vocal assist by Ernest Merritt. It could be the second single.
The album closes with “The Lord’s Prayer” the familiar Pater Noster but set to a brand new melody and a meditative arrangement.
While well produced, Tears 4 Fears could have benefited from a few familiar songs written by other songwriters, since it can be difficult to assess a new artist and brand new songs at the same time. It would also have been interesting to hear Queyonoh sing something from her family’s native Liberia, or in the country’s musical style. Food for thought for the next album?