The Kennedys @ Jammin Java, Washington DC - February 4, 2012.
When I review a crop of CDs for Folkworld Magazine that offer a nice take on the Americana folk scene, I often wonder if I am not hearing the great artists when everything I hear seems stuck in various degrees of 'good'. It did not take more than a few songs tonight to see that the Kennedys are a great folk-rock duo that easily rise to the great artists level.
The Kennedys are a married couple (looking a lot like Damon & Naomi) with Maura providing most of the lead vocals and Pete providing incredible instrumental prowess on a hollow body electric guitar. They start with a number that is a little country, but there is a lovely pop chanteuse quality there. Their songs shift around a bit to folk-rock, early 60s rock and roll, California folk-rock, British folk-rock... etc. etc.
The quality is amazing. Maura has a lovely voice, the guitar work is clean and supportive. But when it comes to solo time, watch out as Pete Kennedy consistently nailed speedy solos filled with soft notes that flowed rather than pierced. Dave Alvin comes to mind.
The set moves into some brand new songs that they have never played live. Maura described them as kind of Petula Clark or Dionne Warwick, and yes that hip but not overly counter cultural 60s sound is there. Few bands can really pull it off well, but it worked so well tonight. They take a break after one set and mingle in the crowd taking requests.
The second set is filled with several requests, many covers, and even some new songs. They do a medley of Bach to "8 Miles High" to Gershwin I believe. The tail end of the Byrds song had a ukulele solo which extended through the Gershwin. Let me just say simply, that ukulele solos should never sound this good. I realize the instrument is popular now and does work quite well, but it just should not be creating such great tones even with the nimble finger work here. Amazing. "A Day in the Life" worked very well.
Normally I would have been surprised, but they have already won me over with their talent and intelligence (not to mention nice humor). A quick encore and they are off to continue the tour and prepare for a long European run with Nanci Griffith who they work with as band members along with being the opening act.
The Jammin Java was full of fans that were rightly supportive of this band and would be no doubt asking me where I have been all the while the Kennedys have been working their magic. Well, add this band to my long file of 'Better Late than Never'.
First published @ dcrocklive.blogspot.com.
Photo Credits: (1) The Kennedys (from website).