The Kennedys

Positively Live!

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After giving a healthy workout to their 1960s pop/rock influences on their fourth album, Evolver, and apparently losing their indie record contract in the process, the Kennedys return with the self-released Positively Live!, which marks a giant step back to their folk roots. This is just two voices and two acoustic guitars, and the emphasis is on the latter over the former. Pete and Maura Kennedy clearly have worked out an elaborate two-guitar sound over the course of many live dates, and their interplay dominates this disc. There are instrumentals by Pete -- the previously unrecorded "Highway 10" and "Shearwater," the title track from one of his solo albums -- as well as an arrangement of Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. A version of "Orange Blossom Special" is preceded by a couple of traditional mountain instrumentals, and even familiar songs get extended guitar passages that find the Kennedys delighting in inserting pieces of everything from Renaissance music to "My Favorite Things" and "Pinball Wizard." All of this makes Positively Live! the closest thing to a bluegrass set from a duo that has veered from Celtic to rock on previous releases. Several of their own songs from those earlier albums are here (though none from Evolver), as well as the new songs "Rappahannock" and "Run Red Lights," both by Pete. But the focus isn't on the Kennedys' singer/songwriter abilities or on their stagecraft -- there aren't many spoken interludes with the crowd -- it's on their guitar playing, and that's impressive enough.

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