Maura Kennedy

Parade of Echoes

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As half of the celebrated folk-pop duo the Kennedys, singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Maura Kennedy has made some of the tightest, most tuneful, and most unabashedly retro pop music of the past 15 years. Her solo debut doesn't depart radically from her works with the Kennedys, though there are some fairly notable differences here -- mostly her slightly startling predilection for very big, muscly guitars. Even when her backing tracks are rocking out, though, her vocals are still as clear and honey-toned as ever. "Gentle" is the word that comes to mind, but it's not quite accurate; she's a strong singer, and her voice is never wispy or breathy, yet when it's paired with the huge guitars on "Time Will Steal Your Heart" or the tough but tender "New Way to Live," her bell-toned singing manages to both counterbalance the rockish atmosphere and enrich its texture. (Oddly, she sounds much less confident and engaged on the otherwise powerfully rocking "Chains.") Elsewhere she indulges her '60s jones without apology: the dreamy acoustic arrangement on "Patience" provides a perfect setting for her melismatic vocal style, and "Some Kind of Life" is the kind of sweet love song that she and husband Pete have always delivered perfectly. The album's single biggest surprise is "Shadows with the Lonely," a jazzy number that features some very fine guitar solos from Pete and a startlingly Patsy Cline-ish vocal turn from Maura.

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