Jennifer Kimball


Oh hear her

Kimball returns with new CD; will play in Orleans Sunday

   Singer/songwriter Jennifer Kimball is on her own again. Famously known as one half of the folk-pop group The Story (with Jonatha Brooke), this veteran of Sarah McLaughlan's groundbreaking and popular Lilith Fair is thrilled to be releasing her new CD "Oh Hear Us."

   Eight years since her last solo record, Kimball's fans ask why it's been so long. Birth and death have a way of impacting a writer, as does plenty of touring, which Kimball has experienced in the past eight years. "Oh Hear Us" is Kimball's expression of renewal and rebirth after the long eight years processing the death of her mother and the birth of her son.

   Kimball will be playing at the Jailhouse Tavern in Orleans this Sunday night, opening for the Chandler Travis Philharmonic.

   "It changes everything when you lose a parent," Kimball says. Citing a deep connection with "all women who have birthed babies" and like many mothers before her, Kimball had no idea of what having a baby would be like. "It is a wild and beautiful trip, the hardest and most rewarding ..."

   Some of Kimball's friends with kids are so disciplined with their writing, they wake at 4 a.m. and write for two hours before their child-filled day begins. While the sleep-craving Kimball doesn't adhere to that kind of schedule, she does feel she has "reconnected with that strange muse that flies around," the muse that only children can inspire.

   Calling the Boston area home for over 20 years, Kimball grew up in New York City, enjoying a childhood filled with piano lessons and plenty of "Rug Concerts" wildly popular in the 1960's. New York's Avery Fischer Hall was cleared of all seating and concertgoers were treated to a 2x2 square of carpet as a seat. In Kimball's household, music is a family event - her husband, a "musical community builder" is the pioneer of "Session Americana," a group of musicians playing American music (old time jazz standards, folk, blues, and more) around a table (see Word gets out about the close-knit musicians, encouraging friends to invite other friends to take part, often rehearsing at Kimball's house. Kimball and her husband have had big fun in past years performing in their chamber-pop band Maybe Baby. Kimball's two year-old son happens to be particularly fond of classical music - he is a huge fan of Kimball's classical singer/babysitter's concerts.

   The Jailhouse Tavern show has Kimball playing for just under an hour with her guitarist. In other venues, she performs with her entire band, and accompanies herself on acoustic guitar and piano. Her repertoire is diverse, heartfelt and eclectic, and showcases her hauntingly lovely, agile voice around lyrics of love, birth, death and love lost. Featuring songs from the new CD, produced by Duke Levine (former guitarist of The Story; and also worked with Mary Chapin Carpenter), Kimball's set includes the title track "Oh Hear Us," borrowing lyrics from church hymn "Eternal Father" (also known as The Navy Hymn) put to Kimball's original music. The edgy radio single "Can't Climb Up" is an angry, bitter song born of frustration with a catchy melody (also known as a great "hook" in commercial musical terms) widely played on local folk radio. Another endearing song you'll hear this Sunday evening is "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams and Dream Your Troubles Away," a Bing Crosby cover featuring a whimsical whistling solo, just like the old Bing version.

   The Cape holds a special place in Kimball's heart, having spent memorable times on the beautiful beaches of Wellfleet. Kimball fondly remembers rehearsing with singer/songwriter Patti Larkin, one of the most accomplished guitar players around. Kimball also toured with Larkin, whom she describes as "a brilliant guitar player and great songwriter and entertainer." Kimball is excited to open at The Jailhouse for one of her favorite bands, The Chandler Travis Philharmonic. "He (Travis) is one of my favorite writers: he can be so poignant and beautiful, and then he is just the greatest comedian as well."

   The death of Kimball's mom affects her songwriting. In the New Orleans-style dirge "Last Ride Home," the line "This is your last ride home" came to her while driving on what would turn out to be her mother's last ride. For months, Kimball heard the one line only, with no chords or instrumental accompaniment - just the pure melodic line and words. Later, she added verses and sang it with her producer, Duke Levine, on guitar. The striking song is unlike many of Kimball's signature songs employing melodic left turns and interesting bridges. "Last Ride Home" is straight-ahead, simple writing at its most affecting.

   Kimball will also be playing this Friday night at a longtime "hometown gig" -- Club Passim in Cambridge. Due to the ever-changing climate of the music industry, Kimball is one of many artists who have their own record label. Kimball's Epoisse Records (named after Kimball's beloved pungent French cheese) joins with distribution company Red Eye Distribution in availing her CDs for sale at all the biggies: Barnes & Noble, Tower, iTunes and Amazon; Newberry Comics, as well as all Boston local independents, and through her website,

updated: 12 years ago