CD Reviews: The Kennedys’ “West” and More…

September 3rd, 2015, 2:01 pm by Greg


(The Kennedys, 2015)

Heart of Gotham
(The Kennedys, 2015)

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Villanelle: The Songs Of Maura Kennedy And B.D. Love
(Varese Sarabande, 2015)

When a band celebrates its 20th anniversary, they usually celebrate by looking back over their musical history together by:

a) releasing a greatest hits album
b) re-releasing one of their iconic albums
c) releasing a big over-packed box set

Fortunately, the Kennedys – who play at Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs on Friday (September 4) – aren’t that predictable. And they aren’t all that interested in looking backwards, either.

In honor of their two decades together, instead of some sort of nostalgic retrospective, they released a new album, West. And Pete Kennedy released a new five-years-in-the-making solo album, Heart of Gotham. And Maura Kennedy released a stunning new solo album, Villanelle: The Songs of Maura Kennedy and B.D. Love.

That’s right, three albums of new material…

West features the Kennedys’ trademarked folk-rock sound, full of sweet, passionate harmonies, some 12-string Byrdsian jangle and a bit of country-rock twang. The songs range from “Signs” (a trad-sounding folk ballad spiked sitar sizzle) to “Locket” (a Buddy Holly-inspired song laced with Everly-like harmonies).

Heart of Gotham is a heartfelt song-cycle about New York City, where the Kennedys make their home. The 13 original songs put Kennedy’s warm, slightly raspy voice front and center, but it’s also a true one-man project, with Pette also playing all of the instruments.

The real gem of the trytich of releases is Villanelle: The Songs of Maura Kennedy and B.D. Love, an ambitious, marvelously executed collection of 15 songs that Maura penned based on the writings of California author and poet B.D. Love. Ranging from the swamp-blues of “Be the One” to the lilting art song “Fireflies” to the Cajun two-stepper “Mockingbird,” there’s nary a misstep here. At times, you can hear the vocal influence of Dolly Parton (“I Cried to Dream Again”), Mary Chapin Carpenter (“Father to the Man”) or vintage Patsy Cline (“I’ll Be Alone Tonight”), but in the end she sounds only like Maura Kennedy.

The Kennedys take the stage at Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs at 8pm on Friday (September 4). Tickets are $16 in advance; $18 at the door.

3 thoughts on “CD Reviews: The Kennedys’ “West” and More…”

  1. Bill King says:

    All three albums are Great I do however favor and think that VILLANELLE is Album of the Year (2015) not just in the Folk Category but for all releases of 2015 it’s that good

  2. Greg says:

    Bill King,

    Yes, Ms. Kennedy’s album is a stunning achievement, especially considering that she wrote and recorded the whole album in just five weeks. Right now, I’m still partial to Ryley Walker’s “Primrose Green” as my fave album of the year so far. But “Villanelle” is now in my Top 10…

  3. Jeff says:

    That all this material is of such high quality is a stunning achievement for The Kennedys. “West” is excellent, but most Kennedys albums are. The two solo albums apparently gave Maura and Pete an opportunity to stretch their creative wings…something all good artists want to do.

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