Half a Million Miles, The Kennedys’ eighth CD and Appleseed debut, presents ten sparkling roots-pop originals, plus two complementary covers, that are infused with Pete and Maura’s “live in the moment” outlook. They don’t mind looking back, as on the title track that opens the album, recounting their storybook first date, in which each traveled 500 miles to meet at mutual hero Buddy Holly’s grave in Lubbock, Texas. But they are most interested in looking around at what they see as an always-vibrant present tense.
The Kennedys’ constant touring, coupled with the influence of writers Joseph Campbell, Aldous Huxley, and Eckhart Tolle, among others, has taught them about “the eternal now,” just waiting to be noticed. With eyes wide open, they discover wisdom and musical inspiration everywhere. A mysterious greeting at their local East Village sushi bar is transformed into the buoyant “Namaste” (translation: “The divine in me recognizes the divine in you”). A neighborhood merchant becomes “9th Street Billy, the guru of East Side soul” in a lilting bossa nova. “Live” and “Listen” are respectively forceful and delicate reminders to stop and smell the roses. “Here and Now,” inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay, “Self Reliance,” reminds us literally that “We can’t be happy until, like the rose, we too live with nature in the present, above time.”
All ten original songs on Half a Million Miles bear references to the Buddhist outlook of openness and enlightenment, and Pete calls the two cover versions – Richard Thompson’s wrenching “How Will I Ever Be Simple Again?” and Bob Dylan’s “Chimes of Freedom” – “political, peacenik songs,” that pay attention to current events.
Proof that profundity needn’t be ponderous shines through every song. Maura’s lead vocals are sweet and often girlishly playful while displaying a plaintive edge of experience, and Pete’s harmonies add a second coating of melodic delight. And the guitars! All those guitars! While Maura lives up to Pete’s admiring description of her as “a serious student of rhythm guitar grooves,” Pete lays down layers and swarms of chiming, dancing acoustic and 12-string leads, plus filigrees of electric sitar, banjo and mandolin (as well as accordion, organ, bass and drums).
Ear candy and brain food are an irresistible combination on Half a Million Miles, where The Everly Brothers meet Emerson, The Byrds meets Buddha, and everyone gets along just fine.
ReviewsQuite simply, I love Pete and Maura because they invite us all to celebrate their ten years together - livin', lovin', giggin', tourin' - in the exuberant title track. Namaste, where 'The divine in you recognizes the divine in me' sets the tone of my whole day. The chugging Midnight Ghost revives the wide open mind and spirit of Kerouac's America. Listen and Live cools me when I'm set to boil. Even cover versions of Richard Thompson's plaintive How Will I Ever Be Simple Again and Dylan's iconoclastic Chimes of Freedom sound like Kennedys' songs. How many artists can achieve that? - Mike Jurkovic, Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange