Nanci Griffith Special guest The Kennedys - 3/15
at City Winery Chicago
WNUR Welcomes Nanci Griffith with special guest The Kennedys
Twenty albums now, and none before like this.“It’s emotional for me, and it’s personal, and it makes my heart pound, thinking I’m going to be totally exposed here,” says Nanci Griffith, the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter and Americana Music Association Lifetime Achievement Award winner. Intersection is not an album of resolution or closure; it’s an album about difficulties, about anger, about things that slip away and things that explode.
“I’ve had a hard life, and I write it down,” Griffith sings on the title track, and that line serves as a statement of fact and purpose, and as a gentler way to explain her near-shouted musical exclamation, “Hell no, I’m not alright.” Intersection is an examination of a particularly difficult time for Griffith, fraught with personal bust-ups, with family turmoil, with hard miles and tears and habits to break. “Sometimes making the best is doing the worst to yourself,” she sings here.
“At some point, you have to get it out,” she says. “I couldn’t walk around with the anger. I didn’t write these songs to punish anybody. I thought I wrote them to get these things off my chest. But now I’ve taken them on the road, and every night when I sing, ‘Hell no, I’m not alright,’ and I see my audience come to their feet, I understand exactly why I wrote this.”
It’s funny what happens with songs. Funny that Griffith’s personal “hell no” moment – delivered here in a frenzy that somehow simultaneously recalls Buddy Holly, Pete Seeger, and The Ramones – can produce a gladdening shock of recognition in audience members who had bought tickets to hear contemplative Griffith gems like “Love at the Five and Dime” and “Trouble in the Fields,” or who came to hear her signature versions of Kate Wolf’s “Across the Great Divide” or Julie Gold’s “From a Distance.” “Hell No (I’m Not Alright”) is two minutes and 22 seconds of evangelical brokenness: “I’m not okay, and neither are you and neither are we,” and it applies to people and businesses and governments, and it’s high time somebody shouted it to the rafters.
“Everybody seems to have an investment in ‘Hell No,’ and in ‘Intersection’ as well,” Griffith says. “So many people are at an intersection in their life, with the way the economy is, with foreclosures and downsizing… For me, Intersection is my musical crossroads.”
A small group of musicians banded together at Griffith’s Nashville home for the making of Intersection. Multi-instrumentalist Pete Kennedy drove his recording equipment down from New York City, and he, Griffith, singer-songwriter Maura Kennedy and percussionist Pat McInerney set about creating the album in an environment devoid of studio clocks. The four share producer credit, and they made the bulk of the music, with Eric Brace and Peter Cooper contributing harmonies to a 20th anniversary version of Griffith’s “Just Another Morning Here” (first heard on 1991’s Late Night Grand Hotel), Richard Bailey of The Steeldrivers adding banjo to “High on a Mountain Top,” Robbin Bach singing backing vocals on “Davey’s Last Picture,” and the world’s most famous road manager, Phil Kaufman, making his recorded bass debut on “Come On Up, Mississippi.” The latter song also features Kaufman, Bach, and Bruce MacKay, along with a children’s choir.
In a career that now spans two decades, New York duo Maura and Pete Kennedy have traversed a broad musical landscape, surveying power pop, acoustic songwriting, organic rock rooted in their early days in Austin, and a Byrds-inspired jangle that drew the attention of McGuinn, Steve Earle, and most notably Nanci Griffith. The duo co-produced Nanci’s latest CD, and are currently touring the US and the British Isles with the Texas songstress. Alan Harrison of Made in Newcastle said "Opening act, the Kennedys, had a nice line in Country-folk with a quaintly English edge to it and songs like When I go and The Midnight Ghost, won them plenty of new fans, as was witnessed by the long queue buying up their CD’s at the intermission."
On their new release, "Closer Than You Know", out on August 21, 2012 via Burnside Distribution in the United States, and October 15, 2012 via Proper Distribution in the UK, The Kennedys strike out into new territory, this time inspired by a sojourn in Paris, where they immersed themselves in the turn of another century, the time when Debussy and Ravel were inventing the sonic palette of modern music. No strangers to reinvention, Pete and Maura came up with a cappuccino-fueled concept at a small café in Montmartre: music inspired by the Impressionist composers, married to the rock and pop sounds for which the duo have long been known. In the spirit of Paris-trained composer Burt Bacharach and his lyricist partner Hal David, Pete took on the task of creating musical landscapes that would cushion Maura’s lyrics and bell-like harmonies. The songs have a quality, inherent in Maura’s voice, that is both soothing and urgent. As writers and producers, the Kennedys continue to mature, from their early style-conscious pop to today’s burnished sheen. Always tuned to their own muse, Pete and Maura have once again come up with a unique sound that is as uplifting as it is unclassifiable.
The Kennedys CD release tour for "Closer Than You Know" will take them to New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, Ann Arbor, and many places in between, with a UK CD launch scheduled in October.