Philadelphia guitarist and 2011 Pew Arts Fellow Chris Forsyth recently signed a two-album deal with the Brooklyn-based label Northern Spy. "Solar Motel," which features a four-piece band and was recorded in Philadelphia at Jeff Zeigler's Uniform Recordings studio, will be released later this year. But first, in July, Forsyth releases his first proper solo album, "Kenzo Deluxe."
The album's named after Kensington, where Forsyth has lived since 2009. "Much of the music was written after taking walks in the neighborhood with my 16-month-old, Lee," says Forsyth. "The diversity in Kensington, and how everything -- the good and the bad -- is really out in the open here, has really changed my perspective and influenced my music."
On the song "East Kensington Run Down," Forsyth repeats a heavy-boogie riff until slipping into a claustrophobic display of twinkling, stabbing harmonics. And on "Boston Street Lullaby I," named after the street where his family lives, Forsyth plays mesmeric, spaced-out blues. "I was trying to put my son to sleep one night," he says about writing the song, "and so I was just delicately strumming the guitar."
Jack Rose, another guitarist who lived in Kensington for many years, also frequently titled his work after the neighborhood (see 2005's "Kensington Blues").
Though Rose died shortly after Forsyth moved to Philadelphia, the two guitarists became friends, and Forsyth was greatly influenced by Rose's work. "There's definitely a subtle tip of the hat to Jack in the title, too," reveals Forsyth.
Terms of endearment
The album's title is borrowed from the neighborhood's abbreviated form, which isn't always perceived as flattering. "'Kenzo' is a term that has mixed meanings depending on who's using it," says Forsyth. "Some use it as a term of derision, but others use it in a positive way -- by adding the word 'deluxe' to it, I'm celebrating the neighborhood and the people who live here."