Husband and wife team The Kennedys have been delivering their particular blend of harmonic folk pop, influenced by the likes of Buddy Holly and Nancy Griffith for 20 years now and West is the first of three proposed albums to celebrate this milestone (the others will be solo efforts from both Pete and Maura Kennedy). West, it has to be said, is not a demanding listen but there’s a freshness and sense of joy in there with some sparkling guitar from Pete Kennedy and powerful vocals from Maura. Overall the album recalls earlier times with a wisp of the 60’s and 70’s and acts like The Mamas and Papas, Geoff and Maria Mulduar and The Byrds resulting in a variety of songs that have a sunny disposition, perfect for listening to as spring awakens.
All is not sweetness and light in some of the lyrics and there’s a sense of grit in the sinister sitar curls of Signs and the brooding bluesy Black Snake, White Snake, proof that the duo can get down and dirty when required. However the breezy open road sound of the opening song West points the album in the general direction it’s headed. Elegy is a Laurel Canyon speckled gem that could have been written by John Phillips while Jubilee Time is a sweet and weary trip to Gene Clark land. Buddy Holly looms large on the retro styled Locket (a debt acknowledged in the liner notes) with Pete Kennedy nailing Holly’s strat stylings excellently and his guitar work is again to the fore on the sing-along country rock of Southern Jumbo. Bodhisattva Blues is as far removed from the similarly titled Steely Dan song as can be imagined as the duo get all rootsy on a rollickingly good song that isn’t a million miles away from Froggie Went A Courtin’, excellent toe tapping stuff indeed.
There are two covers here, the first, a John Stewart Song, The Queen Of Hollywood High (from his album Blondes). It’s the only song on the album to have a full band playing and there’s a fine extended guitar solo towards the end but it doesn’t approach Stewart’s guttural delivery. Perfect Love, written by John Wicks of The Records is more successful as it bathes in jangled 12 string glory. They close the album with Good, Better, Best, written by Pete Kennedy to celebrate their 20 years together. Delivered in an Everly Brothers style it’s simple and eloquent and shows the pair at their best.
The Kennedys are touring in support of the album release and will be in Glasgow on Thursday 30th April at the Woodend Bowling Club.
Listen to Southern Jumbo here