Duo equally comfortable with folk or harder-edged rock
By Denny Dyroff, Correspondent, The Times
The Kennedys, who will be performing at The Flash in Kennett Square on April 26, are folkies who can rock, rockers who can play acoustic and modern-day troubadours. And, the two talented musicians are time-proven road warriors.
The husband-and-wife duo of Pete and Maura Kennedy has played more than 1,600 shows in the last 12 years with its roots in American music. And, that number increases a lot of you count the tours they undertake as Nanci Griffith’s backing musicians.
In a recent phone interview, Pete Kennedy discussed the group’s current activities.
“We’re just gigging — a lot of live gigging,” said Kennedy, who ducked into a post office lobby in Manhattan in order to find a quiet place to conduct the interview.
“We just keep up our tour schedule. We’re not slowing down. We still do over 100 gigs a year. And, when Nanci Griffith goes on tour, we’re back out on the road with her.”
Over the years, the Kennedys have played a wide array of venues in the Delaware Valley, including the Point, the World Café Live, the Tin Angel, PSALM Salon, Steel City Coffee House, Café Menta in West Chester, the World Café Live at the Queen, and, of course, The Flash.
“We really like playing The Flash,” said Kennedy. “It’s a great venue. They have good management. They know how to run a club and the sound there is really good.”
The Kennedys’ fans have been waiting for quite awhile for a new album release by the duo and their wait will be lasting a little longer.
“Our last album was ‘Closer Than You Know’ and that was released two years ago,” said Kennedy. “We’re going to keep working on the next Kennedys album throughout this year. “We have a lot of songs already.
“The new songs have an Americana flavor but I wouldn’t call it an Americana album. It is rootsy. When you have 12 albums out, you don’t want to keep doing the same thing.”
In the past, the Kennedys have recorded much of their music while on the road. This time, they’re keeping closer to home.
We live in New York and we’ve been recording it at our Manhattan studio,” said Kennedy. “Manhattan is the place to make a record. Everyone has recorded albums here — from Miles Davis to the Rolling Stones. I just put out a guitar album — a tribute to pre-rock electric guitar. ‘Tone, Twang and Taste’ is its title.”
In the 1930s, electric guitars were invented to augment the big sound put out by large swing bands. Top jazz, blues, country and rockabilly musicians were drawn to the sound of the electric guitar, led by musical and electronic pioneer Les Paul.
“The electric guitar didn’t really become part of the mainstream until the Beatles arrived,” said Kennedy. “The beatnik scene in New York coffeehouses was more about the acoustic guitar.
“I went and studied the music played by electric guitarists from the 1930s to the 1960s. A lot of people are familiar with Les Paul, Chet Atkins and Django Reinhardt but there were also other great players such as Johnny Smith, Tal Farlow, Hank Garland, Lenny Breau, Mary Osborne, Tony Mottola, Lonnie Johnson and Leon Rhodes.
“Currently, we’re playing some of the songs from ‘Tone, Twang and Taste’ in our live shows as well as old favorites and songs we’re writing and recording now. We keep road-testing the new songs when we feel they’re ready to be played in concert. It’s good to see how the audience responds.”
Audience response also has been a major factor in the Kennedys’ choice of what music to perform in a show.
“Almost every show we do is all requests,” said Kennedy. “We take requests right at the show. I usually go around with my notebook and ask the members of the audience what songs they want us to play. It really sets up a good vibe.”
Over the years, one of the constant characteristics of a Kennedys’ concert is the presence of a good vibe. A Kennedys’ performance means good music, good vibes and an evening with good people.
The Kennedys will perform at 8 p.m. on April 26 at The Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, www.kennettflash.org). Tickets are $18 in advance and $22 at the door. The opening act will be Mariana Bell, an Australian-born singer-songwriter who now lives in Los Angeles.
On April 25, The Flash will present Splintered Sunlight, a Grateful Dead tribute band based in Philadelphia. Tickets for the 8 p.m. show are $16 in advance and $22 at the door.
The calendar of live music in the area this weekend also features Downingtown native/Berkelee School of Music grad Kate Klim on April 25 at the Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com).
The venue will also present Atlas Gray with Owen Danoff on April 26. Both shows are scheduled for 8 p.m. and tickets are $10 for either concert.
This week’s schedule for Downstairs at the World Café Live at the Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-994-1400,queen.worldcafelive.com) showcases legendary folk-rock singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco with special guest HuDost on April 25 at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $30-$42.
The line-up for Upstairs at the World Café Live at the Queen features Chris Eldridge (of Punch Brothers) and Julian Lage with the Dupont Brothers opening (April 24, 8 p.m., $14); Up Nights, Luxdeluxe, Simon Lowe (April 25, 8 p.m., $7); and Dukes of Destiny, the House on Cliff (April 26, 8 p.m., $10).