The Kennedys @ Whelan’s Sunday 19th May 2013.

Husband and wife team, Pete and Maura Kennedy, have been producing compelling music since their debut release back in 1995. We find them in Dublin on a Sunday night, ready to deliver a stripped down set across their ten studio releases, with matching Gibson guitars at the ready and big smiles all around…

They really are a tonic to experience live, with the unbridled energy of Maura shining through in her strong playing, while Pete dazzles with his fret work and imaginative soloing throughout a most enjoyable 90 minutes. Maura has been blessed with a beautiful voice and her singing is both distinctive and sweet. She is a very literate and warm person and handles the pace of the performance in a confident, yet understated manner.

Their new release, the first in four years, titled Closer Than You Know is featured and there are a number of cover versions chosen from favourite songs. So, we get Bob Dylan, The Byrds, Richard Thompson, U2, Nanci Griffith and some virtuoso guitar instrumentals which weave Bach pieces into variations on Over the Rainbow.

However, it is on their own tunes that Maura and Pete really shift into top gear and the spark they generate in playing off each other leads to plenty of great musical moments. Standing shoulder to shoulder they build the tempo of the songs into celebratory and exuberant finales which leaves the audience cheering for more.

If the new release looks to the future, then the other CD on the merch desk nods nostalgically to the past with a 16 track retrospective that is packed with great songs and a must-have for any self respecting country music collector. 

Midnight Ghost features some wonderful guitar playing from Pete and he displays a masterly command of his six string. River of Falling Stars, written at the Olympia in Dublin while on tour with Nanci Griffith back in the ‘90’s, is a memory of where it all started for the Kennedys and we get a steady stream of memorable tunes with Life Is Large, Half a Million Miles, Stand and I Found the Road all reverberating with a positive energy.

Stories of playing at two separate Bill Clinton inaugurations are told with great charm, as is the time when they first met as a couple. We are also treated to a song from a solo record that Maura released in 2009 having experienced the illness of a family member when she channelled her emotions into the compelling tracks that appear on Parade of Echoes.

The night was kicked off in some style by an Irish couple who perform under the stage name of B & the HoneyBoy. About to launch their second release, this husband & wife team are confident performers and seem to channel the vibe of the Civil Wars with their on stage chemistry and the excellent guitar work of Mr HoneyBoy. They join the Kennedys on stage for the final two songs of the evening and the joy of four voices singing in harmony to a driving guitar beat sums up the experience perfectly and leaves me waiting for a speedy return tour

Review by Paul McGee