Songs of the Open Road
First Appeared in The Music Box, December 2006, Volume 13, #12
Written by John Metzger
Since departing from Nanci Griffith’s backing band to begin a career of their own, Pete and Maura Kennedy have concocted their own distinctive brand of ’60s-influenced folk-rock. For their eighth studio effort Songs of the Open Road, the duo took a break from penning new material and instead opted to interpret 14 tunes that, since the inception of their outfit The Kennedys, have weighed heavily upon them. The only real surprises on the set are the inclusion of Mahalia Jackson’s classic I’m on My Way and Nick Lowe’s power pop gem Raging Eyes. Elsewhere, The Kennedys takes a far safer route by tackling songs that are more befitting of the group’s Americana-imbued sound. The nuances that it brings to the selections are subtle, and consequently, the ensemble struggles, at times, to rise above its influences. Still, there’s an ebullience to its arrangements of Dave Carter’s Gypsy Rose and, to a lesser extent, Jimmy Webb’s Galveston that makes them irresistible, while The Kennedys’ glorious harmonies are suited perfectly for the turbulently transcendent psychedelia of The Byrds’ Eight Miles High. Elsewhere, The Kennedys dabbles in the Latin-tinged breeziness of Buffalo Springfield’s Pretty Girl Why; it resurrects John Stewart’s Jasmine and Bob Neuwirth’s Eye on the Road, and it delivers Bob Dylan’s apocalyptic A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall with an amiable, country-derived twang. Collections of cover songs typically are hit-and-miss affairs, and Songs of the Open Road is no different in that it runs the gamut from pleasantly palatable to wholly entertaining.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box