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Dawn Kinnard – Dawn Kinnard

Mind Ignition’s Alex Lusht packed up the recording gear and set up shop in the church ran by Dawn Kinnard’s father. Dawn, Alex, producer Mason Neely, and many guest musicians came together to create a historic collection of music that has already garnered praise from publications around the country.

Dawn Kinnard, a native of rural State College, PA and burgeoning singer/songwriter, wrote “Wires in the Sky” about one lonesome, glorious day she spent speeding across Texas on her beloved Harley-Davidson motorcycle. “I decided to take a trip down to Austin to check out the music scene down there”, Dawn told me recently during a brief phone conversation. “So I put a tent on the back of my motorcycle and just sort of camped along the way. One day I was riding across Texas, and it was just so beautiful and peaceful — the ‘wires in the sky’ line just came to me.” The solitary highway motif is typical of Kinnard’s well-written, often poetic songs, which are permeated with themes of broken hearts and a search for the American Dream. “Wires in the Sky” is one of several excellent songs on Kinnard’s stunning debut CD, an 8-track disc she recently released independently.

Raised the daughter of a Baptist preacher, Kinnard was a regular in the church choir, but picked up a guitar at age 16 and soon after was worshipping at a slightly different alter. “I had a pretty big obsession with Elvis for a few years — that’s pretty much all I listened to for a while”, recalled Kinnard of her later teen years. Shortly thereafter, she began penning her own tunes that paid tribute to the American roots music of which she had become so fond. Combining her newfound songwriting skills with her gospel vocal training, Kinnard began to establish her talent singing for the alt.country band Dusk to Dawn in and around State College.

Feeling confident and believing in what she had to say, Kinnard sold her beloved bike to finance an independent album. When we spoke, she talked about how hard and sad it was to part with said Harley, (she even once compared it to having a dog die). “I was sad, but [making a record] was something I’ve been wanting to do for a long, long time, so I feel pretty good about it.”

Cash in pocket, Kinnard hired an engineer, rented the necessary equipment, and was lucky enough to secure her father’s church to record the album. “We had one month, but it was really laid back, with little time constraints, which was great,” she told me about the choice location. “The acoustics inside the church are really good, so that worked out well too.” And, although Kinnard herself calls the final product “real raw”, producer Mason Neely manages to put together arrangements that sound damn close to big budget. Must have been those acoustics.

The eponymous 8-song disc (“We were only going to make a 5 song EP and we just got a little carried away, stayed up all night and ended up with 8 instead…”) features 7 strong originals and an ethereal, atmospheric cover of “Will the Circle be Unbroken”. The aforementioned “Wires in the Sky” is easily the disc’s strongest track — Kinnard’s desperation melds beautifully with the lonesome-highway lyrics and rolling instrumentation (accentuated by a perfectly placed banjo interlude from Tyne Repogle), but each song contributes to the overall quality of this disc. Mostly mellow, smoldering numbers, Kinnard’s beautiful voice takes center stage on most cuts, effortlessly channeling a gritty but vulnerable wail that’d make Lucinda proud. The bouncy, catchy “Like I Said” prevents any predictability or banality, complete with requisite hand claps. Try to not tap along – I dare you.

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