CD puts listeners in room
By ANDREW S. HUGHES South Bend Tribune Staff Writer
INTERMISSION: South Bend Tribune November 7, 2004

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SOUTH BEND -- By accident, joHn Kennedy discovered the key to selecting the tracks for "Music in the Glen," the second album by his band, Kennedy's Kitchen.

After recording three of the seven concerts that would be used for the live album's material, Kennedy circulated tapes of the first three shows to friends and non-musicians to gauge their reactions to the performances.

"One said, 'I like this whole concert,' " he says of the process. "I said there was too much chitchat, and he said that's what he likes about it."

From that conversation, Kennedy says, he set out to produce an album that had "this sense of an evening" to it rather than let it simply be "a collection of live cuts." As a result, for example, the Irish step dancing of Celtic Fire's Mary Ladewski is audible on "Hornpipe and Dancers," and the album contains "Whiskey in the Jar," the "most overplayed" pub song, because it's an audience favorite and the band got a good recording of it.

"You want to achieve the psychological experience of being in this room and that you actually know these people," Kennedy says of making a live album. "When I listen to the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, you feel like you know these guys. You feel like you're in the room. It's that psychological experience of coming out of yourself; it's what I look for in any music."

Practical considerations, Kennedy says, went into the decision to make "Music in the Glen" live. The band's first album, he says, took most of a year to record and consumed most of the band's rehearsal time, limiting its ability to add new music to its repertoire.

"The game was, 'When we get together, let's not have this project sitting in the middle of the table,' " he says of recording the second album. "Basically, the first one took the wind out of us. For the health of the band, this was a very, very good decision."

Formed out of informal sesúns (sessions) at Lula's Café, Kennedy's Kitchen also includes Jim Bradberry, Joel Copper, Bob Harke, Sally Joyce, Nolan Ladewski, Chris O'Brien and Rob Weber. In addition to releasing "Music in the Glen," Kennedy is professionally pressing 100 CD-R copies of "Joseph Harvey's Fiddle Was Left in the Rain," the album his previous band, Seamaisin, released in 1991. It should be available in a few weeks.

For "Music in the Glen," Kennedy's Kitchen hired Bruce Bartlett to record its concerts and then, Kennedy says, did its best to forget the tape was rolling on those seven nights Bartlett was present.

Two of the album's spoken word tracks, Kennedy's "Tottering Into the Sunshine" and his "Land of Strangers," could be the two tracks that do the most to fulfill the goal of making the listener feel as if he or she is present at the performance.

"Tottering into the Sunshine" tells the tale of Kennedy arriving in the village of Kinvara, Ireland, and being offered and trying to refuse a free whiskey at 10 a.m. in the local pub. Kennedy has fun with the story, his delivery loose and the humor abundant and phrased well. "Land of Strangers" recounts the life story of Kennedy's 99-year-old grandmother, Bridget Coyle, and her journey from Ireland to America, from young girl to family matriarch.

"Recitation is traditionally a part of an Irish evening, and storytelling, not just formally telling a story, but making something up on the spot," he says. "Playing with the language is a part of the Irish art. When you go to see an Irish band live, part of the evening is the repartee, and that's something that's not been represented well on recent Irish recordings."