Off The Record by Mike Farragher
Irish singer Maura Kennedy makes a stunning solo debut
Posted on Sunday, January 24, 2010 at 12:02 PM
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It is fitting that the debut solo album from singer songwriter Maura Kennedy should be called “Parade of Echoes.” As the album progresses, you get the sense that Kennedy is rummaging through the costume department in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, trying on influences like jackets.
Fortunately for her and her listener, most of what she tries on fits beautifully.
“Parade of Echoes” opens with “The Thing With Feathers,” a spooky track that mixes choral harmonies wafting over a minimalist bed of bass and bells. “I feel this thing with feathers beating in its soul cage/I long to set it free to see how far if flies/the cage is empty when the hope inside you dies,” she sings toward the end as feathers flap underneath her.
Just when you think Kennedy is a depressing Goth gal she throws you a case of musical whiplash, unleashing a hopelessly sunny romantic postcard from the sixties with the power pop of “New Way to Live.” It’s the kind of song that begs for open windows, an open road, and a lead foot.
“Make it Last” traces the pattern of jangly guitars and underlying tension of great Buddy Holly songs. Some of the lyrics read like tortured thoughts scribbled on a napkin during a late night coffee overdose in a roadside diner.
“I’d call you anytime/I wonder if you’re really even on the line/just my imagination/you’re only in my head/I look for you and I’m alone instead,” she sings over a dirty glam rock riff and Neanderthal thumping drums of “Chains.”
Kennedy left upstate New York and made her bones in the musical city of Austin, Texas, where she honed her stage presence and hooked up with Nanci Griffith, touring the US and the British Isles behind Griffith’s Grammy-winning “Other Voices, Other Rooms.”
Working the road in the acoustic format of roots-pop mavens the Kennedys, her songwriting blossomed as she began drawing from novels, poetry, and especially from her own dreams. She returned to New York, lived in a number of tenements around St. Mark’s Place, many of them hastily converted into makeshift recording studios, and it was in that neighborhood that she conceived the idea of writing a song, and making a master-quality recording, every month for 13 months.
Like the calendar itself, there is a song for every season on “Parade of Echoes.” Unlike an echo, which merely copies that which went before it, Kennedy emerges with a voice that is uniquely hers.
Just as I write this, I happen upon the last track, “Shadows of the Lonely.” It is a lilting acoustic back porch lullaby that finds her doing a dead-on impression of Patsy Cline, proving that mimicry another skill of a talent that knows no limits.
For more information, log onto her web site at maurakennedy.com.