Sunday, February 12, 2012

Musical Couples: Pete & Maura Kennedy

The Kennedys: Stand


Folk rockers Pete and Maura Kennedy met twenty years ago, while he was playing back-up for Nanci Griffith's touring band; they drove 500 miles apiece to meet at Buddy Holly's grave in Lubbock, Texas for their first date, and subsequently found themselves opening for Griffith as a duo in Ireland.

Since then, they've moved from artist's enclave to artist's enclave, from NYC's East Village to Northampton, MA and back again, always staying together, always staying with the music. They still write, record, produce, and tour with Griffith; you'll hear their work on Intersection, her upcoming 2012 release. And for a while, there, they were selling vintage clothes on the festival circuit as a sideline.

But The Kennedys are a musical force of nature in their own right, too. They've recorded solo albums alongside each other, and ten as a duo. Pete's electric sitar and Maura's powerful voice have found their way into a few other collaborative projects, too, including ongoing collaboration The Strangelings, which offers one of the best hybrids of British folkrock, 60's psychedelic rock, and American roots music ever put together. And as a coverfan, I know them for their takes on The Byrds, Richard Thompson, Dave Carter, Dylan, The Beatles, and others, all of whom one can hear as clear influences in their music and their politics.

In many ways, though they aren't always invited to play on the mainstage, Pete & Maura are also one of a small handful of acts who can legitimately claim to be the heart and soul of the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, the place where SMM contributors Susan, Darius, FiL, and I spend our summers when we can. I've heard them play this song as an encore there more than twice, and it never fails to bring me to tears to stand, and sing, with thousands of others in harmony in that happy, hopeful place. And if they sound optimistic here, in what may well be their most well-known anthem, it's because they really are that happy, that at peace with the world, in person. I know. I've spoken with them. Their faces shine. They project hope. It's no wonder Bill Clinton had them play at both of his inaugurations.

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