3 July 2015

Sarah Jospitre, Editor, HorizonVU Music Blog

Sarah has an ever increasing pool knowledge of the fast-changing music industry landscape. She has earned a Masters in Music Business at New York University (NYU) and she has worked for hip-hop music mogul Sean “P. Diddy” Combs’ Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment, EMI Music Publishing, CBS Radio and most recently, Russell Simmons’ celebrity blog, GlobalGrind. As Editor, Sarah brings not only her knowledge, but her passion for music journalism and discovering emerging talent.

Villanelle_Maura Kennedy_200x200

Maura Kennedy
Villanelle: The Songs of Maura Kennedy and B.D. Love
(Varèse Sarabande Records, 2015)

(Not) Formerly one-half of the folk-rock band, The Kennedys, Maura Kennedy is back with her sophomore studio album, Villanelle: The Songs of Maura Kennedy and B.D. Love. The concept for Villanelle first came to the singer/multi-instrumentalist after reading Love’s collection of short stories entitled, A Day in the Life of a Severed Head. One particular story, “Stitches,” inspired Kennedy to write a song using the poet’s dialogue and literary characters. From that, a musical genius plan was born: the writer/poet/professor would send Kennedy poems and she would fit them to music―Love’s only ingenious twist being that he would make no effort to craft the poems in music-friendly form; challenging Kennedy to think outside the box to work a melody into them.

The result is a 15-track collection with the album’s title and opening track taking on the form of a 19-line poem consisting of five tercetsMaura Kennedy_2014_200x300 (any three lines of poetry, rhymed or unrhymed, metered or unmetered) followed by a quatrain (a type of stanza, or a complete poem, consisting of four lines). With effortlessly soothing vocals similar to a mother’s calming lullaby, choir-like melodies strengthening the chorus as well as dominant “twangy” guitars that solidify an ever-present old western feel throughout the album, Villanelle sets the tone for the rest of Kennedy and Love’s musical lovechild.

The beautiful, complicated and fragile tones and textures present in Kennedy’s vocals as well as the country-like guitars found in the opening track can also be heard on the folk rocker “Bicycles with Broken Spokes,” the love-and-longing-themed “Mockingbird,” and the powerful “Borrowed Dress,” which offers an emotional tale of immigration. As a result, such titles are reminiscent of the works of country-folk singer-songwriter Tish Hinojosa and Kennedy’s mentor, Nanci Griffith.

An incredible element that holds true throughout Villanelle, thus, elevating its words and music to a higher level of artistry is the juxtaposition of effortlessly sweet melodies to emotionally-charged, heavy lyrics. In “Darling Cutter”―which discusses the hardships of a teenager’s life that results in the youth physically harming himself―the same vibrant old-time country guitars (acoustic guitars, bass and percussion played by Maura with a gut string solo by Pete Kennedy) remain powerful yet do not overpower Kennedy’s voice, which in giving off a surprising 1990s alt-rock, angsty vibe sings, “Your stupid face/that nappy hair/You ugly slut/You’re fat and fatter/Why don’t you just jump off/Some roof somewhere?” The same technique is found in the slow and ethereal “I Cried to Dream Again” (with acoustic guitars played by Maura; drums, bass, electric guitar and banjo played by Pete): “I had a dream/I was circumscribed by flame/When I heard you call my name” and in the bluesy, “She Worked Her Magic on Me” (acoustic guitars played by Maura; bass, electric guitar, mandolin and a gut string solo played by Pete): “She put me into a box/And then secured all the locks/And then she cut me in half/Said it was good for a laugh/She worked her magic on me.”

Ranging from old time country to upbeat and bluesy to slow and ethereal, Villanelle: The Songs of Maura Kennedy and B.D. Love proves that the East Coast veteran singer-songwriter’s effort to intertwine her voice and B.D. Love’s words in an effortlessly magnetic way was a success. Kennedy has composed a musically innovative collection where rhythm and phrasing follow poetic image instead of the other (conventional) way around.


01. Villanelle
02. Bicycles With Broken Spokes
03. Darling Cutter
04. I Cried to Dream Again
05. Fireflies
06. Soldier’s Wife
07. Be the One
08. Mockingbird
09. She Worked Her Magic on Me
10. Borrowed Dress
11. Coyotes
12. Father to the Man
13. I’ll Be Alone Tonight
14. Breathe Deeply, Love
15. Beneath the Mistletoe

For more about Maura and her music, visit: MauraKennedy.com as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

To find out more about B.D. Love or to order his books of poetry and fiction, visit: BDLove.org.

Sarah Jospire receives comments and suggestions at sarah@horizonvumusic.com