al stewart

T h e..K e n n e d y s

beach full of shells

The Kennedys
Songs of the Open Road


“There’s no arguing that Pete Kennedy and Maura Kennedy know how to write a fine song, but The Kennedys’ catalog also confirms they can choose a lovely cover when they're of a mind, and they've chosen to pay homage to some of the songwriters and tunes that influenced them most with their eighth studio album, Songs Of The Open Road. While the album offers a tip of the hat to some old friends and acknowledged mentors, including Nanci Griffith (‘Late Night Grande Hotel’), Dave Carter (‘Gypsy Rose’ and ‘Happytown’) and Roger McGuinn (‘Eight Miles High’), there are a few surprise selections here, including a lovely take on Nick Lowe’s ‘Raging Eyes,’ The Flying Burrito Brothers’ ‘Sin City’ performed with heart-tugging depth, and a timely interpretation of Jimmy Webb’s ‘Galveston’. . . . [T]his is wondrous folk rock built with equal measures of craft and soul; the rich but subtle arrangements are as fine as the Kennedys’ peerless harmonies . . . [A]s a loving expression of the folkier side of their nature it’s grand stuff and the finished product leaves no doubt of how much these tunes mean to them. . . . [I]t's hard to argue the Kennedys’ choice in tunesmiths, and their stirring performances confirm they chose them wisely. (3-1/2 ***)”
– Mark Deming, All Music Guide


Rather than compiling a mix tape for the road, Pete and Maura Kennedy went one better . . . they put their signature stamp on 14 of their favorite songs for the van. Since the Byrds have always provided a touchstone for the Kennedys’ blend of hooks, harmonies, and guitar jangle, it’s no surprise that their transcendent version of ‘Eight Miles High’ highlights this collection, along with dips into the songbooks of Byrds alumni Gene Clark (‘Gypsy Rider’) and the Flying Burrito Brothers (‘Sin City’). In addition to the folk-rock of the ’60s, the Kennedys show a penchant for '70s troubadours such as John Stewart (‘Jasmine’) and Bob Neuwirth (‘Eye on the Road’). Yet the album’s wild-card eclecticism also includes a transformation of Stephen Stills’s ‘Pretty Girl Why’ into a Brazilian samba, while material that ranges from Nick Lowe’s ‘Raging Eyes’ to Jimmy Webb’s ‘Galveston’ to Mahalia Jackson’s ‘I’m on My Way’ shows that musical inspiration knows no categorical bounds.”
– Don McLeese, Editorial Review


“. . . A Walt Whitman-inspired sampler, a little traveling music for folks who share the former Washington-based duo’s affection for rooted, if hardly scruffy, pop, folk, country rock and gospel. . . . Maura Kennedy's vocals are always lovely and often affecting, while hubby Pete makes evocative use of a small arsenal of instruments – organ, electric sitar, uke, banjo, bass, glockenspiel and, of course, all manner of guitars. . . . The inclusion of Mahalia Jackson's ‘I'm on My Way’ isn't a big surprise, but it does pose a big challenge. Fortunately, a cleverly torqued arrangement allows the Kennedys to pull off the tribute without sounding sorely miscast. . . .Tagging along with the Kennedys on this road trip pays off.”
– Mike Joyce, The Washington Post


Songs of the Open Road rings with beauty, honesty and enthusiasm for life. There are classics. Pete’s guitar and sitar work electrify The Byrds’ ‘Eight Miles High,’ a Kennedys’ live-show favorite, and Central New York native Maura’s strident vocals strike home in the scared soldier's tale of longing on Jimmy Webb’s ‘Galveston.’ And there are rarities. Pete’s swampy guitar on Gene Clark’s ‘Gypsy Rider’ wallows in the natural acoustic wonder, and Maura’s sunny vocals warm all on the late Dave Carter’s ‘Happytown (All Right With Me)’. . . . The piece that says it best, though, is Mahalia Jackson’s ‘I'm on My Way’ with its deep and glorious spirit.”
– Mark Bialczak, The Post-Standard, Syracuse, NY


“You learn a lot about a performer by their choice of cover material, and on Songs of the Open Road the Kennedys supply a complete syllabus of their major musical influences . . . . The Kennedys apply their jangly brand of roots-pop to a veritable pantheon of important American songwriters . . . making a rollicking good time almost inevitable. . . . The Kennedy's music has an infectious bounce guaranteed to elevate your mood and banish all but the blackest depressive haze. Songs of the Open Road is way cheaper than a prescription of Valium and just as effective. I'll take two, please.”
– Steven Stone, Vintage Guitar Magazine

“Pete is a talented, multi-instrumentalist with a long list of studio credits, including work with Nanci Griffith. Maura Kennedy does most of the vocals. She has one of the loveliest voices in any genre of music. . . .  The Kennedys offer great treatments of Dylan’s ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ and Gram Parson’s “Sin City,” but the best tune here is their version of Bob Neuwirth’s ‘Eyes On the Road.’ They also revive the Jimmy Webb classic, ‘Galveston,’ and though the arrangement is not much different than Glen Campbell's version, Maura Kennedy makes it sound fresh and enjoyable again after all these years. The duo also do great justice to songs from Griffith, John Stewart, Victoria Williams and others. Concept albums like this work sometimes, and sometimes they don’t. This one most certainly works, and it's hard to put down. A definite winner.”
– George Haunenstein, Country Standard Time


“The Kennedys’ voices blend like all those who spend most of their time together, with backing instruments so strong and seamless there’s not enough room to slip a piece of paper between them. As recent so-called concept albums go, this is on a short list of the best, for all the right reasons: the songs fit them and they fit the songs. . . . Some things are best when they’re good and broken-in.”
– Bill Bentley, Studio City, CA., Sun


“For their latest, the husband-and-wife duo take a respite from penning original material and instead offer sterling versions of their favorite travel songs. Decades past and present are represented, but the emphasis is on the West Coast folk-rock that prevailed in the ’60s. On the Byrds’ ‘Eight Miles High,’ for instance, the psychedelic jangle of the original remains intact, but Maura Kennedy’s yearning soprano and Pete Kennedy’s close harmony add to the transcendence. Similarly, the elegant restraint that fuels ‘Galveston’ adds subtle power to this Jimmy Webb classic. Other high points include a glycerin-smooth bossa nova treatment of Stephen Stills’ ‘Pretty Girl Why’ and a majestic version of the late Dave Carter’s ‘Gypsy Rose, but truth is there’s not a stumble to be found on this superb collection.
– Russell Hall, Performing Songwriter