“Unafraid to mix philosophy, spirituality, love and artistry
with a folk-rock back beat is what makes this duo
a positive force on all things human."
– Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
Inspiration is where you find it – and where it finds you. Open to every moment, the much-traveled married duo of Pete and Maura Kennedy have spun their personal experiences, musical influences and philosophical beliefs into nine previous albums of winsome original songs, frequently seasoned with exquisitely-performed cover tunes, that blend acoustic-based folk, rock, country, pop and secular gospel into an inclusively delightful sound that’s all their own.
After celebrating some of their favorite “road music” by other songwriters on their previous CD, Songs of the Open Road, Pete and Maura have recorded Better Dreams, their first CD of all-original material in seven years, inspired by a pair of seminars they conducted on “using dreams to unlock your creativity.” “We found that we were writing really interesting songs in and around the workshop sessions,” they explain. “All of these songs have something to do with the dreamtime,” where “we have a different kind of freedom there.”
Time and space become fluid in the dreams The Kennedys have translated into these songs. The cleansing “eternal now” flows through the CD-opening “Breathe,” which counsels, “Breathe into a new life, breathe out all the old times.” The tricky path to love is illuminated on “I Found a Road” and “Light My Way.” Real life nightmares rush into folk history (“Sago Mine,” about the January 2006 mining disaster in West Virginia) or flood the modern day (both “Give Me Back My Country” and “American Wish” lament the draining of civil liberties in post-9/11 America). The dream state itself can be a lifeboat (as on the Eastern-tinged title song and “In My Dreams”), an exhausting anchor (“No Mornings”), or, to mix metaphors, an exhilarating rocket ride to a metaphysical sock-hop (“Speed of Soul”). Appropriately, the CD concludes with an ethereal, near wordless hymn to the ultimate dream – peace (“Pacé”)
Whatever the scenario, The Kennedys use their full palette of vocal and instrumental colors to bring their songs to glowing life. Maura’s lead vocals range from comforting to yearning, from girlish to womanly, from exuberant to delicate, sometimes bolstered by her own sweet harmonies and those of Pete and several guests. As usual, multi-instrumentalist Pete provides a vibrant tapestry of chiming, jangling and twanging guitars, as well as mandolin, keyboards, bass and drums, interwoven with Maura’s sturdy acoustic rhythm guitar, harmonica and glockenspiel.
You can also discern the influence here of two recent Kennedys side projects – there’s a new prominence given to the electric sitar and twinkling ukulele that are respectively featured elsewhere in The Strangelings, their “British folk/psychedelic” quintet, and in The Stringbusters, Pete and Maura’s ukulele duo devoted to jazz, classical and pop.
To again quote “Breathe,” listening to each new Kennedys recording is “just like being born, but you’re wiser this time.” Meaningful songs, gorgeous vocals, wizardly instrumentation . . . they all add up to better dreams – asleep or awake – for everyone fortunate enough to hear them.