December 2006

The Kennedys - Songs of the Open Road
Appleseed Recordings APR CD 1097
Format: CD
Released: 2006

by David J. Cantor

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

I can hardly stop playing Songs of the Open Road, the Kennedys’ ninth CD, nor can I figure how I missed the previous eight! The collection contains powerful renditions of 14 folk-rock classics, including "A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall" and "Eight Miles High." The couple reinvigorates the romantic American soul as the '50s/'60s folk revival demanded new songs for a new world. They avoid stale nostalgia and imitation by combining their unique talents with verve and vitality.

Surrender! There’s no defense against their take on Dave Carter’s poignant "Gypsy Rose":

My love was buried in the spring
I see her face in blossoming things
One night I thought I heard her sing….

As if aware they’ve shattered you, they pick up the pieces and put you back together with Nick Lowe’s rollicking "Raging Eyes."

Maura Kennedy’s lead singing, engaging and confident, sounds as if she’s feeling her way word by word yet as if she could do these tunes in her sleep. Pete Kennedy plays so many instruments you’d think he’s afraid to let anyone else near Maura. And it’s just the two of them, except for one accordion credit. But Pete does a fine job. Variety isn’t lacking, but it’s more in the song selection than in the arrangements. The uniformity gives the pair a distinctive style.

It wouldn’t be wrong to say there are muddy moments or that Maura and Pete’s harmonies sometimes aren’t perfectly synchronized, but their spontaneity contributes more than perfectionism would. I don’t keep close tabs on every CD that comes my way, but this one’s going in the safe-deposit box!