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Shepherd's Bush Empire, London 25 July 2012

The Kennedys, a husband and wife duo consisting of Pete on guitar/backing vocals and Maura on vocals/acoustic guitar, have released eleven albums to date although they have not really had a big push here in the UK to date.

That is set to change with their new album 'Closer Than You Know' due in October and they play most of tonight's set from said album. Their songs take in acoustic folk ('Winter'), Americana ('Rhyme and Reason') and lovingly crafted acoustic pop ('I'll Come Over').

From their earlier albums they did 'The Midnight Ghost' before Nanci Griffith joined them for a rousing version of the Monkees' 'Daydream Believer'. For a duo they cover so many musical avenues and Maura has a strong, melodious voice.

Given some decent exposure on say BBC radio 2 and the Bob Harris show, the Kennedys have the songs to get them noticed and become much better known, which is the least they deserve based on tonight's highly enjoyable set.

Nanci Griffith takes to the stage (a homely set with chairs and two standard lamps) to rapturous applause. She is joined by the Kennedys (with Pete also playing bass and soloing that would impress Rush's Geddy Lee I am sure!) and her long time percussionist Pat McInerney.

I am not normally a big fan of country in its traditional form but Americana and someone like Nanci Griffith, who adds folk and bluegrass to her music, made this a great evening of music.

Nanci was suffering still from recent surgery on her left hand but her voice was in fine from, none more so than on John Prine's 'Speed of the Sound of Loneliness' and the moving 'The Loving Kind'.

Throughout the set she interspersed the songs with either stories behind the songs or the songwriters plus insights into her family life.

There is plenty of homely humour like the story 'Bethlehem Steel' of her new album 'Intersection' and at what point in the film 'The Deerhunter' you can see Robert de Niro streak down the main street.

Touching moments too on 'Simple Life', penned with Elizabeth Cook as the song covers her mother's death from Lou Gehrig's disease. Nanci was keen to see this disease, for which there is currently no cure, gain more recognition in the hope further research could be carried out into causes and possible cures.

Plenty of older songs to keep the long-time fans happy with 'Across the Great Divide', 'Tequila after Midnight' and 'Listen to the Radio', although sadly tonight no 'From A Distance'.

The Clap Brothers, two burly looking chaps, were brought on to provide hand claps to 'Hell No (I'm Not Alright)' the much-publicized, quasi-political anthem adopted by the Wall Street protesters. It is one of the more upbeat songs on the new album and with a strong, instant chorus no wonder it was picked up so quickly as an anthem.

After tonight's performance you can see why Nanci Griffith is loved by her fans and gains the plaudits from her peers as she effortlessly entertained us for over ninety minutes. Even if like me you're not a massive country fan do get along to see Nanci Griffith perform and also make sure you check out the excellent sounds of the Kennedys..

Review by Jason Ritchie


Album review (The Kennedys)

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