Personnel: Kayla Cohen (vocals, guitar, piano); Whitney Johnson (violin); Kacey Johansing (drums).
Audio Mixer: Brian J. Sulpizio.
Liner Note Author: David Keenan.
Recording information: Los Angeles (2015).
Photographers: Kayla Cohen; Ella Anderson.
Marking the songwriter's debut on the Paradise of Bachelors label, Open to Chance is the third full-length album by indie folk's Kayla Cohen under her Itasca pseudonym. Known to fans for her light-handed, acoustic home recordings, it's also her first to feature a full band. Still gentle, if reinforced, the recordings remain steered by Cohen's gauzy vocals and acoustic guitar. A vivid storyteller, she opens the album with "Buddy," a remembrance with imagery of dancing mice and diving birds that follow a couple through their romance. Pedal steel guitar, bass, drums, and glockenspiel flesh out the sentimental tune, but, with a quality that may recall the likes of Judy Collins and Joni Mitchell at times, Cohen keeps the focus on the tale. The slide guitar, performed here by prior collaborator Dave McPeters, folds seamlessly into Cohen's style, and appears throughout the album. Offering a few soft changes in texture, piano is front and center on "Carousel," and "Just for Tomorrow" has contributions from strings and woodwinds without edging toward an orchestral sound. More on point, "No Consequence" highlights the weave of pedal steel and Cohen's fingerpicked guitar under a lilting vocal melody. On the whole, her songcraft isn't so much catchy as haunting, and shines on the slower, sparer tracks, like "Layman's Banquet" and "Banquet," if only because the vocals get muddled with increased pace and competition for space ("G.B."). Even there, and with the full band on board, Open to Chance is remarkably delicate, with a timeless impression of being overheard outdoors under a setting summer sun. ~ Marcy Donelson