Iowa City Press Citizen
DECEMBER 31, 2009
"Parade of Echoes"
As The Kennedys, Pete and Maura Kennedy have been one of the most buoyant, hard-working and tuneful pop/folk guitar duos on the planet for more than 15 years, racking up 150-plus gigs per annum.
A CSPS show a few years ago is etched in this scribe's memory, when they nailed versions of The Fabs' "Eight Days a Week" (an ecstatic, hand-clapping sing-along) and the nonpareil, "un-coverable" "And Your Bird Can Sing" (yoiks!).
Remarkable folks well-met as principals of Nanci Griffith's all-star Blue Moon Orchestra, songbird/guitarist Maura Boudreau and world-class guitar avatar Pete Kennedy finished Griffith's U.S. and European tours before tying their romantic and musical knot.
Their incandescent 1995 folk-rock gem debut "River of Fallen Stars" introduced them as a shape-shifting, cutting-edge act, and their subsequent nine albums have placed them among the elite of timeless male/female pan-genre duos that includes the likes of Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris, Richard & Linda Thompson, Buddy & Julie Miller and Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer.
Continuously, reliably fueled by bed-rock influences Buddy Holly, The Beatles, The Byrds, Brill Building girl groups, '60s psychedelia, kicky, Carnaby Street fashion and an undercurrent of the experimental West Coast pop of Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham, these footloose rockers have augmented their live shows and recordings with a regular weekly slot showcasing eclectic folk-rock on the Sirius Radio satellite network, along with Pete's 2008 solo disc ("Guitarslinger") and the couple's 2009 side-project as members of the five-peeps The Strangelings (whose "Season of the Witch" CD explores "neo-psychedelic Celtic folk-rock").
All of which brings us to now and to Maura. On her first "solo" venture, Ms. Kennedy unleashes her better pop angels and her most tormenting demons on "Parade of Echoes," a near-Spectorian symphony of ebullient/anguished ruminations on any True Lover's worst fears, denials and fervent hopes.
Kennedy's classic rock-ability has never been better presented: To paraphrase The Bob, Maura's tough'n'tender vocal delivery has a smoky, full-bodied punch that's "just like a woman's, yet it breaks just like a little girl's."
Such unguarded, soulful exposition serves her spectacularly well on this sonically expansive, lyrically claustrophobic emotional rollercoaster that -- but for the closing, Patsy Cline-flavored coda co-written with Pete -- is all Maura's, all the time.
Few women in popular music have ever ventured into the push-pull of failed romance/betrayal with the righteous, self-aware presence exhibited at every measure herein; the crap has hit the fan, she gets it and manages to move on while still clearly in possession of her quiet, inner-sense of self and leaving the door open for mature, if bruised, reconciliation.
Pete's multi-instrumental flair underlies some of this gem, but Maura's similarly-wide-ranging, muscular skills show her to be far more Pretender than pretender on this shimmering, punk-fueled pop powerhouse.
Latch on, you wounded gals, Maura will show ya where the boot goes.
-- Jim Musser