Some might find it odd that The Kennedys, a tightly knit husband-wife duo of considerable repute, would opt to record albums on their own. After all, their dual efforts are so expressive and emotive, they become a travelogue of sorts, an ample stockpile of their collective observations. Their latest, "West," was a typically stunning affair, filled with sparkling glances of a vagabond existence that takes them from coast to coast with sever increasing regularity. Surprisingly, Maura Kennedy quickly offered up her own second solo outing, the literary "Villanelle," veering from the group's rustic palette with a literary discourse based around the work of author B.D. Love.
"Heart of Gotham," Pete Kennedy's first song-oriented sojourn on his own, isn't nearly as removed from The Kennedys' traditional template, and though it takes the form of a love letter to New York, it still bears the same jangly narrative style the two make in tandem.
That said, it's a wonderful record, one that represents Kennedy well, and if it were made by both, it would affirm the talents of the two together. The majority of the songs finds him singing from a personal perspective, whether reflecting on his wayward youth ("Never Stopped Believin'") or recounting a philosophical stance that's always been at the essence of The Kennedys' mantra ("People Like Me") "People like me tend to fall in love with people like you," he states in the latter, a real or imagined love letter to his wife. So too, when he sings "I never grew up/I never looked back, I never gave it, and I never went slack," on the former, it becomes a defining statement of purpose that's as revealing as anything he or Maura has ever delivered.
Likewise, despite the introspective nature of the work overall, "Heart of Gotham" maintains The Kennedys' rollicking rhythms, spiritual sensibilities and vintage, archival feel. His voice, long used as a support vehicle for Maura's, naturally comes to fore, a raspy instrument that conveys his soulful sentiments with a timbre eerily reminiscent of Steve Forbert. And while there's occasional deviation from the norm - the rockabilly banter of "Riot in Bushwick" and the power pop muster of "Harken" in particular - this series of resilient ruminations is one that Kennedy in particular can be proud of, both as part of the Kennedy canon and as an expressive offering of his own. Consider it moving, mesmerizing and simply superb.