CD Review: The Kennedys

Better Dreams Appleseed
Music •••½ Sound ••••

No matter what the situation, Maura Kennedy's sweetly parsed vocals have always made this folk duo's music sound honey-dipped. The situation for studio album No. 9: Having conducted songwriting seminars on "using dreams to unlock your creativity," the Kennedys put that exercise into practice with these 12 new tunes inspired by their own nocturnal musings.

Husband Pete provides much of the instrumental backing, with his expertly picked 12-string Rickenbacker, resonator slide guitar, electric sitar, mandolin, and banjo accompanying his sparsely added bass and drums. This comfortable musical setting allows Maura to ponder deep mysteries in "Speed of Soul," "Kindred Spirits" (inspired by Joseph Campbell), and "Breathe," which confronts the possibility of life being a birth-to-death-to-rebirth continuum.

Such metaphysical questions are offset by the literal, political rage of "Give Me Back My Country" and the defiantly hopeful "American Wish," where the dreams are of a better world here and now. But even in their anger and frustration, the Kennedys smooth the rough edges, adhering to the dream-like twilight their music evokes.

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