If Pete and Maura Kennedy aren’t performing music, chances are they are playing music.
“We’ve been going for about two and half years now, and we love it,” says Maura Kennedy. “We weren’t looking to do a show. The program director, Meg Griffin, asked us if we’d do a show.
She had interviewed us before; she knew that we were on the road a lot and really in touch with the modern singer/songwriter circuit. She liked our stories and our manner.
“We’ve always been able to play whatever we want to play and bring guests in,” she adds. “It’s like what we do normally at home if people come over. We’ll say, ‘Hey, check this record out.’ ”
Maura Kennedy says the inexhaustible feeling she and her husband had while making Songs of the Open Road, a covers project, also applies to their Sirius show.
“There are so many songs that we feel really need to be out there that aren’t,” she says, “whether they’re old roots songs — we’re playing Willie Dixon and Sister Rosetta Tharpe — to new stuff that’s so underground or so indie they wouldn’t get on [regular] radio, either.”
Pete Kennedy says it’s fun to “draw connections that will lead people to places they might not have gone before musically.”
“Like if we played a current blues artist, such as Chris Smither, we would come out of that with a Robert Johnson song,” he explains. “And from there you could go to a Thelonious Monk thing that’s also blues but a different take on it. And since that’s a piano thing, you could go into Beethoven‘s ‘Moonlight Sonata,’ which Ray Charles thought of as a really deep blues song. At some point, you’re going to play something that a listener hasn’t heard before. It’s the opposite of Top 40 radio, where you hear all familiar stuff. We try to take people into uncharted territory.”
Just like on their radio show, the Kennedys explore material by famous and under-the-radar artists on their new album. There’s a Byrds theme throughout the disc, which includes versions of that band’s hit “Eight Miles High” (written by Gene Clark, David Crosby and Roger McGuinn), plus “Gypsy Rider” (a Clark solo song) and “Sin City” (a Flying Burrito Brothers tune penned by ex-Byrds Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman).
Pete Kennedy has nothing but praise for the Byrds, individually and collectively.
“If you look at their early singles, Gene was underrated in a way,” he says. “What they did was so amazing for the time, and it would be amazing now if a group came out doing the same thing. They blended deep roots, folk music with jazz and classical stuff. They made references to Bach and stuff like that, along with contemporary pop, world and Indian music.”
The Kennedys will be on tour supporting Songs of the Open Road at least until early December. On Dec. 17 in Northampton, Mass., the duo will hold a guitar workshop geared toward intermediate and advanced players.
Meanwhile, check out the Kennedys on Sirius’ Disorder channel from 7-10 a.m. ET Saturdays and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET Sundays.
— By Chris M. Junior
The Kennedys on tour in October (schedule subject to change):
* Oct. 5: Joe’s Pub — New York
* Oct. 6-8: Folk Project Fall Festival — Stillwater, N.J.
* Oct. 14: Vintage Vinyl — Fords, N.J.
* Oct. 20: Faith Community UMC — Baltimore
* Oct. 21: Seabury Center — Westport, Conn.
* Oct. 28: Winchester Tavern and Music Hall — Cleveland