Kennedys – True love ways
Pete Kennedy was a guitarist in Nanci Griffith’s Blue Moon Orchestra when Griffith pulled into Austin for the next-to-last gig on a 1993 tour that would end ten days later at the Telluride Festival. Maura Boudreau, who played with Austin roots-rockers the Delta Rays, heard Pete at a club during the layover.
“I immediately fell for his guitar playing,” Maura recalls, “and the very next day a mutual friend had a guitar pull at her house; we kind of connected there. When the pickin’ party broke up, I asked Pete if he would stay another day and write a song with me. So he did, and we wrote our first song together even though we’d only known each other about 24 hours.”
Kennedy closed out the tour at Telluride, then called Maura for a date before heading back east. A map search for a meeting point revealed that Lubbock, Texas, was almost exactly 500 miles from each of them — and if driving 500 miles to rendezvous at Buddy Holly’s grave doesn’t conjure the makings of a folk-rocker’s epiphany, what on earth would?
Moreover, that first date’s potential for a Spinal Tap moment was not lost on Pete.
“Yeah, we sang an a cappella raga version of ‘Not Fade Away’,” he laughs. “But I think our whole direction was established right from the start. We were both so influenced by Buddy Holly and the Everlys, our personal and musical relationships have always been part of the same thing.”
The couple was married shortly thereafter. Beginning in 1995 with River Of Fallen Stars, the Kennedys have released six albums of original, folk-tinged pop-rock marked by shimmering guitars, close harmonies, literate (if occasionally warped) lyrics and eclectic, pan-genre shadings.
“We don’t really mind being cast as making a certain kind of music,” says Maura. “We are pop, we are rock, and we are folk. But we have very wide-ranging tastes, and we don’t feel that because our records are filed under ‘pop’ that we are held to that. We give our audience credit for being as eclectic as we are.”
“From the outset, we took the Byrds’ ‘Eight Miles High’ as the template for our songwriting,” Pete says. “We’d talked to McGuinn, and he told us a story about how the Byrds were traveling around in a Winnebago and only had a couple of 8-tracks with them. They had John Coltrane’s Africa/Brass, a Segovia, a Ravi Shankar and I think the Zombies’ first album. So they listened to all of this stuff together, and when they got back to L.A., the first thing they did was record ‘Eight Miles High’, which really rolled all of those things together.”
The Kennedys prepare for the long hours on the road by assembling stacks of compilation CDs during the short breaks at home in between their nearly nonstop touring. New mingles with old, and jazz, soul, gospel and blues slip easily among the expected rock, pop and Americana fare.
Not coincidentally, few guitarists outside of the jazz world share Pete’s uncanny knack for quoting melodic passages from myriad sources in the course of his six-string workouts. Meanwhile, Maura deftly reflects each shift with a symbiotic ease that borders on ESP.
After two discs for Green Linnet Records (River Of Fallen Stars and the star-studded Life Is Large) and two on Rounder affiliates (Angel Fire on Philo and Evolver on Zoe), the Kennedys formed their own label, Jiffy Jam, for last year’s Positively Live and their new studio release Get It Right.
They have since regained the masters of the Green Linnet albums and have added those two (plus two earlier solo works of Pete’s) to the Jiffy Jam catalog. They harbor no intent to expand the roster; they’d rather serve as a model for other artists to control their own work.
“[Self-releasing] is definitely the new paradigm,” says Pete. “It’s the way it’s gotta be, and I think it’s better for everybody. Major labels are not interested in our kind of numbers, and the compromises you have to make to try to please more folks are not in the interest of creativity. When Kevin Welch did an album for Warner Bros., he said, ‘It was like taking a 747 to go to the 7-11’ — it’s way more than you need.”
Pete and Maura have also released a book this year, Make Your Own Videos With Adobe Premiere. Published by Hungry Minds, it’s a comprehensive guidebook for using Adobe’s software to make effective videos — not the kind geared to the MTV market, but for adding value and creative flair to independent CDs.
“We just want to show that if we can do it, other people can do it, too,” Pete says. “The resources are there now, and the skills can be learned.”