Life Is Large

The Kennedys

Green Linnet Records, 1996

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


[Editor's note: this review originally appeared in On The Town magazine on July 2, 1996.]

Wow. No, really. WOW!

I could just leave it at that, but this incredible album deserves much, much more.

First of all, as far as I know they aren't related to those Kennedys (or even, for that matter, punk icons the Dead Kennedys). Husband-and-wife guitar-and-vocals songwriting team Pete and Maura Kennedy are instead musical descendants of jangly guitar masters The Byrds and Tom Petty on the one side, and confessional country-folk artists Mary Chapin Carpenter and Nanci Griffith on the other (both were part of Griffith's touring band in the '80s; Pete also toured with Carpenter; and founding Byrd Roger McGuinn solos on this album's title cut). The Kennedys wear their influences on their sleeves, chiming out Rickenbacker guitar leads underneath lyrics brimming with insight and wordplay, while also managing to move the music forward, creating a sound that is fresh and smart and thoroughly enjoyable.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Pete Kennedy's retro production, full of Hammond organ, Maura's acoustic rhythm guitar and his own punchy electric leads, invites you to dance along to numbers like the dark-side-of-love "Velvet Glove" and the witty, self-aware "Sunday." For most of the album, he also plays harmony vocalist to Maura, whose clear, expressive voice is as capable of conveying frustration and melancholy on songs like "I'm Not You" and "St. Mark's Square" as it is of celebration on upbeat love songs like "One Heart, One Soul" (the latter featuring a letter-perfect closing solo from E Street Band guitarist Nils Lofgren). Toward the end of the disc, the sitar of "Right as Rain" and the whispery vocals and hypnotic licks of "Blackberry Rain" and "Sirens" extend the Kennedys' vision to embrace a psychedelic pop sound that would have been right at home on Sgt. Pepper's.

But frankly, the 11 terrific songs that follow this album's opening title cut were all gravy to me. Rare is it that the first time I listen to a new CD, I stop after the first song, go back and listen to it again before moving on. This time, I had to. "Life is Large" is a knockout power-pop anthem to the fullness of possibilities life has to offer, featuring the aforementioned solos from Byrds guitarist Roger McGuinn, and filled with sharp little nuggets of wisdom like "How do you want to be remembered? / A raging fire or a dying ember?"

Like I said before -- wow. Three months ago I'd never heard of the Kennedys. Now I'm confident they've produced the best album I've heard so far in 1996. Don't miss it.

To learn more about the Kennedys, visit their Web site at

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2003 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Green Linnet Records, and is used for informational purposes only.