- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 8, 2002

The coy references to the Beatles and the unexpected amalgamation of banjo and sitar, hip-hop and bossa nova aren't the only things that make Pete and Maura Kennedy's latest recording so astonishing.
The couple released their CD this week in conjunction with their first book.
"They're both projects we're really proud of, and either one by itself would be great. But doing both at the same time really opens up new horizons for us," says Mr. Kennedy of the CD, admonishingly titled "Get It Right," and the book, "Make Your Own Music Videos With Adobe Premiere," a how-to manual that includes journal entries from the couple's adventures as touring musicians.
The Kennedys will have CD and book release parties in the Washington region on Thursday at Jammin' Java, 231 E. Maple Ave. in Vienna, and on Friday at the Cellar Stage at St. John's United Methodist Church, 5313 Harford Road in Baltimore. Both events are at 8 p.m. and the Kennedys will perform during them. They're also appearing in Celebrate Fairfax at 2:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Birchmere Musical Hall's stage, at the Fairfax County Government Center.
"Get It Right" is the couple's first enhanced CD. Embedded in the disc are copies of the lyrics, photos and the video for a song on the record, "Nickeltown." The book also comes with a CD-ROM that Mr. Kennedy says includes components of the "Nickeltown" video. Readers can follow the book's directions to piece together the video to learn how to use the Adobe Premiere video-making program.
Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy started writing the book Oct. 1. They agree it was a change from the songwriting they've done for their six CDs, but it has its own appeal.
"It's very different from putting a record together for us," says Mrs. Kennedy, who adds, "They let us maintain our personality so we have a lot of 'road stuff' interspersed with 'book stuff.'"
"When you make a record, you start with nothing, then you write songs and it takes shape as you do it," Mr. Kennedy says. "With a book, you start with a concept and sort of fill it in, fill in the blanks."
"With a song," says Mrs. Kennedy, "on some level or another it's abstracted." She says good songs often are filled with oblique poetic references, figurative language in which what isn't said counts as much as what is.
"In this book," she says, "you had to be complete."
"When you finish a song," Mr. Kennedy chimes in, "you don't say at the end, 'Did I leave something out?' In a book you do the opposite. You try to leave nothing to the imagination, leave nothing out, fill in the blanks."
"At least with a book like this," Mrs. Kennedy says.
The two know something about literature as readers as well as writers. Until January, they lived in Reston, where their favorite haunt on days off the road was a neighborhood used book store. Often, books they were reading figured into their lyrics. "Get It Right" is no exception, and it was mostly recorded in their Reston home studio.
Arlington-born Mr. Kennedy is something of a living guitar legend. His career has included stints backing up guitarist Danny Gatton and sitting in with Charlie Byrd. Ten years ago, he met Maura Boudreau of Syracuse, N.Y., a singer-songwriter who was living and performing in Austin, Texas. Sparks flew from the start, artistically and romantically. Within 24 hours, they finished their first co-written song, "Day In and Day Out."
Mr. Kennedy at the time was working as a guitarist for Nanci Griffith's Blue Moon Orchestra, and the two dated when the tour allowed. In the summer of 1993, Maura Boudreau joined the Griffith band as a backing singer. Miss Griffith pushed the pair toward the stage to open her shows, and they frantically wrote songs to plug into their new act.
By October 1994 they were married and recording their first album, "River of Fallen Stars," which was issued in January 1995. It featured many songs they had written while touring Ireland and Britain with Miss Griffith. The disc got an Indie award from the National Association of Independent Record Distributors.
This January, the Kennedys left Virginia for Greenwich Village in New York City. Within a week, they were back on stage in Alexandria at the Birchmere Music Hall, accepting the World Folk Music Association's annual Kate Wolf Award. Mr. Kennedy had played guitar for the late California songwriter when she toured the East Coast in the 1980s.
Miss Griffith appears on "Get It Right," singing behind her former band members on the opening song, "Ride, Angel, Ride," and singing on a tune she co-wrote with Mrs. Kennedy, "Pearl's Eye View," a biographical sketch of war photographer Dickey Chappelle.
"Ride, Angel, Ride" is "one of those songs where Pete wrote the lyrics and gave it to me for the melody," Mrs. Kennedy says. The song chronicles the Kennedys' romance.
"That's why we had Nanci sing on it," says Mr. Kennedy, who points out that Miss Griffith inserted a Beatles line at the end of the song, singing "Ticket to Ride."
It's the first of many Beatles references in what is perhaps the couple's most playful recording to date.
Their novelty song, "Why, Winona, Why" retells the shoplifting arrest of film star Winona Ryder. If the song's ending sounds familiar, it's because it recalls the Beatles' 1963 song, "Please Please Me."
"We were just being silly," Mr. Kennedy says. He says the lyrics came to them late last year when they heard a radio report of Miss Ryder's arrest.
"We were heading into a tunnel in New York and Maura just started saying, 'Why, why?'" Mr. Kennedy says. "By the time we got out of the tunnel, the rest of the song was done."
"We care about her," Mrs. Kennedy says of Miss Ryder. "We put the Beatles ending on it to reinforce the tongue-in-cheek aspect of it."
"The Beatles are an ongoing influence in rock 'n' roll and even folk," Mr. Kennedy says. "They were the template for what we think of as a rock 'n' roll band now."
But the fab four are only one influence for the Kennedys. Inspiration for the song "I Don't Trust Words," for example, comes from books by Trappist monk Thomas Merton, a Roman Catholic who developed an interest in Buddhist mysticism. The last verse, however, is an obscure reference to the late Reston-based guitarist Roy Buchanan, Mr. Kennedy says.
The couple recorded friends and family members saying the song title in different languages they knew, including Mrs. Kennedy's brother, Vince Boudreau, who speaks the Tagalog dialect of the Philippines. Mr. Kennedy says the sound was so rhythmic that he used part of it as a percussion loop.
The weird jaw-harp sounds that open the second track on the record, "Didn't It Rain" were discovered by accident, Mr. Kennedy says.
"I think I was just plugging things in and the drums went through the guitar channel. My ears just perked up right away because it didn't sound like drums anymore," he says. The song also combines electric sitar and banjo music and a hip-hop bridge.
"I'm not sure how many hip-hop, old-time songs there are that feature banjo and sitar," Mr. Kennedy says.
Not many records would also feature a teasing bossa nova like "Galaxy Express," in which Mrs. Kennedy invites listeners to "strap on an astro pack and take off for the stars" with her.
Life in Greenwich Village agrees with the Kennedys. In one of those odd quirks of life, they spend about as much time in the Washington area now as they did when they lived in Northern Virginia. They play the same number of dates here as they always have and they spend as much time on the road.
But when they're home, the couple now have the benefit of waking up in the city that never sleeps.
"It's great for us," says Mrs. Kennedy. "Our hours are like vampire hours, but so are everybody else's around here. Outside our front door and walking down the street, we can hit 20 or 30 clubs with all kinds of music."
And for a couple who collect vintage clothing as a hobby, New York has a lot to offer.
Mrs. Kennedy says her favorite find so far is a store that specializes in producing platform shoes from Converse All-Star sneakers.
Hers are blue.



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