The Kennedys bring musical magic to Hoboken

Pete and Maura Kennedy review

JAMES MASTRO

Maura and Pete Kennedy at Guitar Bar Jr. in Hoboken, Feb. 23.

The Kennedys presented a phenomenal show at Guitar Bar Jr. in Hoboken, Feb. 23, surrounded by beautiful lights, a warm crowd of all ages, and a bust of John F. Kennedy Jr. on the window ledge. Gorgeous harmonies, intelligent tales and rich and jangly guitar tones were on display all night, including on the title track of their 1996 album, Life Is Large. They lit up the space singing:

Life is large
Bigger than both of us

Life is large
All you need it just a little trust
Be yourself and stand your ground
Don’t you let nobody turn you ’round
Life is large.

Their enthusiasm was contagious, capturing the attention of not only the adults in the room, but three teenage boys in the crowd as well.

Spouses Maura and Pete Kennedy — multi-instrumentalists known for their harmonies and extraordinary guitar magic, which blends country, folk, rock, bluegrass and pop — also mesmerized us with their talent on “9th Street Billy.” The song tells the tale of a neighborhood merchant in Manhattan’s East Village (where they have spent time living) whose store is so small he greets people on the street and “shares his wisdom free … he can pull down a song from the middle of the air/Call out the spirits over Tompkins Square/9th Street Billy, the guru of East Side soul.”

Pete told stories about their first date in 1992 at the grave of Buddy Holly in Lubbock, Texas, after they met when Peter was playing guitar in Nanci Griffith’s Blue Moon Orchestra. Coming from different locations for the date, they both had to drive 500 miles.

We were treated to their beautiful song “Half a Million Miles,” from their 2005 album of the same name, which discusses this fortunate rendezvous, where they found, in each other, both personal and musical partners. When Maura replaced Iris DeMent as a harmony singer on Griffith’s tour, Pete and Maura found themselves in the same band, and later served as Griffith’s opening act. (See a video of Nanci Griffith performing “Across the Great Divide” below, featuring both Pete and Maura.) These award-winning musicians launched a successful duo and began releasing albums in 1995, and are now touring in support of their latest, Safe Until Tomorrow.

Pete’s engaging book, “Tone, Twang & Taste: A Guitar Memoir,” will be on sale when they appear in Richard Barone’s show titled “Music+Revolution: Greenwich Village in the 1960s” at the Outpost in the Burbs in Montclair, March 29. You can also join them on a musical cruise to Cuba in November. For more information, visit kennedysmusic.com.

Guitar Bar Jr. is owned by James Mastro, one of Hoboken’s favorite and wittiest musicians, who will soon be touring with Mott the Hoople. He also owns Hoboken’s Guitar Bar, and the Guitar Bar Drum Den in Jersey City; the latter location will host a show by Sailor Boyfriend and Rose Image, March 1 at 7 p.m. Visit facebook.com/gbddjc.

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