A review for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Judi Green (JudiLem@aol.com)
This album can't be reviewed (at least by me) without reference to the reviewer's age and era. As I listened to the CD, the music and vocal style evoked Simon and Garfunkel, the Beach Boys, and a more delicate Peter, Paul, and Mary - candles and incense...wall hangings made from Indian bedspreads...the smell of a certain illegal substance. The artists mention as their influences The Byrds, the Everly Brothers, and Roy Orbison.
Pete and Maura Kennedy state in the liner notes that these songs were written during their tour of the British Isles. They were especially influenced by Irish "melody and lyricism", leading them, in this album, to place the more importance on the sound of words and on imagery than on meaning.
Several of the songs are especially rich in visual and aural imagery such as, "And the jangle dreams and the red guitars/Flow like a river of fallen stars" (River of Fallen Stars), or "Silent riders/bridge of visions/ Midnight lanterns/Gleaming". Other songs that showcase their ability to create a sense of place include the list of street names that makes up the song Chelsea Embankment, and "Sunday on Stephen's Green/Dublin's a mist of dreams/Black umbrellas opened out/Against the rain" (Stephen's Green).
All but two of the songs were written by the Kennedys. My own favorite is Fortune Teller Road. It stands out from all the others in the starkness of the imagery and the modal quality of the melody, which together produce an eeriness that carries through beautifully in Maura's delivery. Note the refrain: "River gods and holy altars/Midnight rain and bones/There's a lonely meeting place/On Fortune Teller Road".
Maura sings solo or lead vocal on 5 of the 13 songs; the others are duets with Pete. My own preference is for her solo work, with her clear and unpretentious voice, in contrast to the sweet harmonies of the duets. This latter mellowness is at odds with the intensity of the lyrics. This is most evident on the songs written Richard Thompson and Tom Kimmels.
This is a successful album, but one likely to be appreciated most by those who like the folk-rock of the '70's and the "new acoustic" or "new Celtic" music of the '90's.