The Kennedys - West
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West (Self-released, 2015)

The Kennedys

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

The latest from the husband and wife team of Pete and Maura Kennedy is a mix of folk, pop, country, '50s rock and a touch of '60s psychedelia. For the most part, Pete supports Maura's strong vocals, taking the lead on only The Byrds-flavored "Jubilee Time" in which his effectively raspy delivery is reminiscent of Leonard Cohen. The Byrds influence is in evidence as well on the opening title track and "Southern Jumbo," both featuring the duo's folksy harmonies. The sweet harmonies are also nicely displayed on the Beatlesque "Perfect Love" and the closing ballad "Good, Better, Best."

Stronger tracks include the twangy "Bodhisattva Blues," which the liner notes describe as a song that might come from a mythological songwriting session between Doc Watson and Joseph Campbell, and the cover of John Stewart's "The Queen of Hollywood High" that spotlights Maura's superb vocals. Other highlights are the sweetly sentimental "Locket," on which Pete pays homage to Buddy Holly's "Everyday" with a glockenspiel solo, and the pair of '60s psychedelic rockers "Signs" and "Black Snake, White Snake" with Pete on electric sitar.

The Chuck Berry style "Travel Day Blues" is the one song on which Pete's vocal range fails to meet the challenge, and his harmonies fall a bit flat, but he does contribute a rocking guitar solo. The tune itself is fun with such observations as "Preacher's on a pulpit banging on a book/Politician's shaking hands looking like a crook/Gonna keep a-walking till my blues are shook."

The Kennedys wrote or co-wrote 11 of the 13 songs, with multi-instrumentalist Pete providing most of the musical accompaniment (acoustic guitar, banjo, mandolin, mountain dulcimer, organ, bass and trap kit). After two decades of making music together, The Kennedys' "West" reveals the duo to be in top form.

CDs by The Kennedys

West, 2015 Better Dreams, 2008 Songs of the Open Road, 2006

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