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Boston Globe on "North/East" song collaboration with author Leigh Montville

Evel doings: Boston Globe
By Mark Shanahan & Meredith Goldstein
October 11, 2010

In recent years, former Globe scribe Leigh Montville has written well-received books about Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Dale Earnhardt, and Manute Bol. His latest, which is nearly done, is a bio of Evel Knievel, the motorcycle daredevil whose stunts included a wildly unsuccessful attempt in 1974 to jump Snake River Canyon. Evel’s is such a great story that Montville has put him to music. Actually, his singer/songwriter friend Kevin Connolly has. On his new CD “North/East,’’ Connolly has a song called “Evel Knievel’’ with lyrics provided by Montville (“He was born in Butte, Montana/ raised on gasoline’’). Connolly debuted the song at Club Passim the other night and Montville was impressed. “Maybe I could be like Bernie Taupin,’’ said the author, referring to Elton John’s lyricist. “Maybe if Bruce [Springsteen] is having a bad day, I could help him.’’ Hmm. Don’t quit your day job.

Patriot Ledger Review by Jay Miller

By Jay N. Miller
For The Patriot Ledger
Posted Oct 01, 2010 @ 01:20 PM

The cliche idea of the tortured artist, forever on the road looking for love and adventure, might be disappearing in Kevin Connolly’s rearview mirror. But the Marshfield musician has found he can still mine his life for inspiration.
“As soon as you stop writing about love in every song, it can be liberating,” said Connolly, from his day job as sales manager at WROR. “I have the quintessential happy, suburban family life, but it would probably be boring and repetitious to keep going back to writing about that.”
Connolly’s new album “North/East” is a collection of short stories delivered in Connolly’s gruff baritone. Connolly and his quartet will celebrate the CD’s release Saturday night at Club Passim in Harvard Square. Boston rocker and Connolly pal, Dennis Brennan, will open the show.
“The last few years, I have not been on the road like before, so this is a more journalistic approach,” he said. “I’m trying to bring my perspective into different places, projecting myself into different characters and letting them tell their stories.”
Several songs on the new album might startle listeners with their vivid depiction of familiar New England themes. The examination of the worn-out mill town in “Fall River,” which covers the displacement of workers, economic struggle, outsourcing, possible LNG terminal construction, and the supposed panacea of a proposed casino, is stunningly evocative. Connolly wrote it as a challenge to himself, aiming for a gig he had coming up at the Narrows Center in that city.
“Knowing I was going to play in Fall River in a month, I enjoyed the experience of giving myself an assignment. I did my research, and began reading their local papers everyday online.”
That song was a deviation from what Connolly usually does.
“I don’t do political songs,” Connolly added. “It’s meant more as a social point of view, asking questions, without preaching at anyone. I think it’s a real question now – what do we do with these old towns? I wouldn’t do a whole record like that, it’s a bit dark, but isn’t this what you’re supposed to do as a songwriter: make people think?”
Several of Connolly’s early songs have immortalized “MarshVegas,” but none of the tunes inspired by Marshfield have ever touched a universal chord like the heartbreaking ballad, “The Fishing Life,” with its eerie portrait of a wife aching for her man to return from the Stellwagen Bank.
“Growing up on the water as I did, I had always wanted to write a song like this. In Marshfield, we grew up with families whose fathers were fishermen, or lobstermen, and it’s a risky way to make a living. Anytime the weather turns on you, it can become very dangerous – and it’s just as hard on the wives waiting at home with the family,” Connolly said.
The song “Battle Road” grew out of one of Connolly’s 5-mile walks with his dog by the Lexington historic site near his present home. In it he muses about conflict from the American Revolution to Afghanistan, and even domestic conflicts in the homes along the route. “I remember thinking, as I read all those great street signs, Who’d ever write a song about this road?” he said. “But it is relevant today, because close by is Hanscom Field, where military aircraft are constantly coming in and out. There’s also a lab nearby that does military research. And, of course when I saw a silhouette of a couple fighting in one of those homes, it seemed pretty ironic.”
The song “Evel Knievel” was inspired by Connolly’s friend, former Sports Illustrated writer and biographer Leigh Montville. Knievel is also the subject of Montville’s next book.
“That song was sort of my smart-ass commentary, showing Leigh that doing it my way, you can cover Knievel’s life in four minutes,” Connolly said, laughing.
Other more or less topical songs include “Living On the Street,” an unsparing look at a homeless man, and “Mass. Ave.” where a veteran returns home from overseas duty.
“I wanted to do a song about the homeless without being overly sentimental,” said Connolly. “My model was William Kennedy’s book, ‘Ironweed,’ and it’s a dark story, but, essentially, here’s a guy who made his own choices. ‘Mass. Ave.’ is more about a soldier coming home, and appreciating his old life.”
The new album isn’t all dark and moody. Lively songs like “Already There” and “Let’s Say You Do” evoke John Hiatt’s serio-comic family songs, while “Chevy Impala” is a classic rock ode to one’s first car. But then “Doesn’t Mean (That I’m In Love)” and “Wonder” put new spins on those classic romantic themes Connolly has mostly abandoned.
“Chevy Impala’ is a cool, fun song, that hopefully transports you to all those places,” Connolly said. “I list all those places to go at the end, because I love using names and real places – just like in the ‘Fall River’ song. ‘Already There’ grew out of those typical family drives where the kids are always asking ‘are we there yet?’ and I always want to tell them, ‘pipe down, we’re already there.’ That song ‘Doesn’t Mean’ is a lot poppier than anything else.”
Connolly will be playing at Bull McCabe’s in Somerville on Friday, Oct. 15, and at O’Shea’s in Dennis on Saturday, Oct 23. REVAMPED PARADISE: Got our first look at the renovated Paradise last weekend, and the changes are nice. The stage has been centered between the two support pillars, a main level bar has been moved to the side, and the mid-level boxes have been eliminated, providing much more space on the floor. The balcony has been widened and enlarged, and traffic flow is much easier there. Best for touring bands, the expanded dressing room area now includes a new shower and laundry room with washer-dryer. All of the changes added 122 patrons to the club’s capacity, bringing the total to 850. During the soldout show by Irish rockers James it was easy to move around freely and didn’t feel crowded.
ERELLI IN CONCERT: Another outstanding roots music album just out is “Little Vigils” from Somerville’s Mark Erelli. It’s also a scaled down effort recorded the old-timey way, with Jake Armerding’s mandolin and fiddle part of the superb backing band. Erelli appears Saturday night at the East Weymouth Congregational Church, at 1320 Commercial St., at Jackson Square. (15, showtime 8 p.m. parking free). Make sure he plays “August” and “Kingdom Come,” two standout cuts from the new CD.
KEVIN CONNOLLY  8 p.m. Saturday at Club Passim, 47 Palmer St., Cambridge, $15 at the door, $13 in advance. 617-492-7679.
Copyright 2010 The Patriot Ledger. Some rights reserved

Best Albums of 2008
Jay Miller/ Patriot Ledger
Boston, MA

``STILL STANDING STILL'' by KEVIN CONNOLLY ( Don’t class this Connolly album among the folkies; he’s mostly backed here by a quintet led by co producers Chris Rival (guitar) and Ducky Carlisle (drums) and it’s as rocking as any John Mellencamp or Ryan Adams album. Marshfield native Connolly writes with precision and heart, his admirable economy of words nonetheless hitting the emotional target like a laser. Check out tunes like ``Everything I Wanted,'' ``Can’t Feel the Rain,'' and ``Undefeated'' and ask yourself if you’ve ever heard better crafted songs. If Connolly didn’t have such a good ``day job'' (at Channel 7), he’d be considered among the nation’s front rank of songwriters. As it is, he’s just another New England treasure.

New York Times …"Connolly’s music cuts a fairly wide swath through pop music culture, touching on everything from blues to folk to country to rock — and often a combination of all four"
WUMB......"(Still Standing Still) Outstanding.....quickly becoming a WUMB favourite!" Brian Quinn/Music Directpr
Dirty Linen Magazine- The songs reflect his grounding in an array of roots music styles...earthy, rhythmic collections of dark-tinged musings, rich ballads. The gravelly, weatherbeaten voice of Connolly gives life to vivid vignettes sculpted from painstaking realism. His live performances are intense, the focused flow of music and energy interspersed with dry, laconic humor.
Patriot Ledger..."a treasure worth discovering"
Yummy List/Holly Gleason..."A rugged voice that creates a reality where you can live honestly, dream reasonably and believe in the songs"
Boston Magazine ... "Best of Boston"
Album Network ... "A songwriter's songwriter, an uncompromising performer and an original personality"
CMJ ... "a startlingly rewarding artist"
Boston Phoenix ... "Literary, serious, reflective, soulful, eclectic, blues-driven... the crowd needed two encores, a testimony to Connolly's ability to spin his energy into the room." 

Barnes Newberry/Highway 61 Revisited WUMB—"Kevin Connolly has been diligently working his craft for many years and may have finally hit his stride with his latest cd, Still Standing Still. Backed by some of Boston's finest players, it is a fully-realized, mature work where the lyrics and the music resonate with the listener and the songs each stand, not "still," but strong! From the infectious Bumpy Road to the rockin' Walking Out In The Woods, Kevin has shown what hard work can accomplish! Catch him soon, folks, he's the real deal!"

Leight Montville (author) "So I’m singing in the car again with Kevin Connolly. He’s inside the dashboard, doing his part from an aging CD player, taking care of the guitar and the melody and the words and, OK, just about everything else on ‘Mystery Water,’ his latest recorded effort. I’m doing, uh, background vocals. Harmonies, that’s what I’m doing. I’m singing about ‘bottom feeders and misdemeanors’ and longshoreman days on Castle Island and fast-talking, out-of-control women and spinning like a pinwheel in an idiot wind and exploding cigarettes and monkey bars and I’m screaming, OK, ‘do me.’ Whatever that means. I even have a little air guitar solo and body language thing that I add on certain tunes. I could be singing with Springsteen or Sinatra, you know, singing with anyone living or dead who ever sang a song in all of music history. I’m singing with Kevin – not Caruso or Eddie Vedder or Joey Ramone – because his songs on this CD are new and different and just terrific. Check us out, Kevin and me, appearing in a high-speed lane near you"

Patriot Ledger... from Top Sounds of 2005…"A stellar acoustic jewel of an album… It is no stretch to view this album as a New Englander’s companion piece to ‘‘Devils and Dust,’’ with similar depth and passion, and no punches pulled…riveting." (Jay Miller/Patriot Ledger)

The Noise …"It’s an acoustic folkie-type offering with great production and incredible songs. By incredible, I mean that the songs have remarkable musical variety and lyrical depth. And they’re catchy, too. Connolly’s songs sound vaguely Tom Waits-ish, vaguely Celtic, vaguely like the last Johnny Cash recording, and lyrically, vaguely Springsteen-ish, as if the Boss had grown up on the South Shore instead of the Jersey Shore. Although the songs are sonically spare, with only vocals, acoustic guitars, and minimal percussion, Kevin Connolly exhibits a range of moods, in a way that, say, Picasso’s pencil drawings might. As a testament to Connolly’s songwriting expertise, I can imagine his songs translating well to any style…" (Robin Umbley)

Holly Gleason/The Yummy List  "A rugged voice that at times suggests the Springsteen of Greetings From Asbury Park, Boston-based Connolly sits low in the groove and offers up postcards and polaroids from a world that is faithful in the hard spots, committed where it'd be just as easy to walk on and thrilled by the smallest things. It's not necessarily easy or convenient, but it creates a reality where you can live honestly, dream reasonably and believe in the songs."

New York Times ..."Connolly’s music cuts a fairly wide swath through pop music culture, touching on everything from blues to folk to country to rock — and often a combination of all four." 

WMNF Tampa- "Kevin's music has been a welcome staple of WMNF's programming for years and years. The man can tell stories and write melodies that get under your skin." -- Cameron Dilley/ DJ

Patriot Ledger..."a treasure worth discovering"
Boston Magazine ... "Best of Boston"
Album Network ... "A songwriter's songwriter, an uncompromising performer and an original personality"
CMJ ... "A startlingly rewarding artist"
Boston Phoenix ... "Literary, serious, reflective, soulful, eclectic, blues-driven, and occasionally goofy ... the crowd needed two encores, a testimony to Connolly's ability to spin his energy into the room."
Constantine Report ... "Connolly writes great songs, and this album serves notice that he will be around for a while."
The Boston Globe ... "A packed house, and a concert that exceeded expectations ... Connolly was a delight."
The Wenatchee (WA) World ... "I was completely inspired that a person could be that good at something, let alone that good of a performer of 20 terrific songs about the dream of living."
KPFK (Los Angeles) ... "A wonderful singer, an imaginative write,r a rare treat to experience."
WGBH-FM (Boston) ... "One of New England's best young singer/songwriters. He pushes his stories beyond conventional standards " La Republicca (Italian newspaper) ... "One of the most interesting voices coming out of the American scene today."
Santa Barbara News-Press ... "Penetrating imagery that immediately demanded attention ... it's hard to imagine how Connolly has avoided more widespread acclaim and bigger record deals."
Monterey County Herald ... "Roots-rock muscle and assured songwriting, humorous but not self-consciously so, deeply emotional without being maudlin ... surely one of the best shows of the year."
Entertainment Times ... "A seductive, thought-provoking compilation of tunes that speak to the universality of the small-town American experience."

Interview Article

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Download full length Mystery Water review in Patriot Ledger

Download full length article on Kevin in Dirty Linen Magazine

MUSIC SCENE: The top sounds of 2005
For The Patriot Ledger

‘‘MYSTERY WATER,’’ Kevin Connolly (Kevin Connolly Music--
Marshfield native Connolly returns with a stellar acoustic jewel of an album, backed by multi-instrumentalist Steve Sadler and drummer/producer Ducky Carlisle. Songs like the title cut, referencing his South Shore childhood, and ‘‘Castle Island,’’ recalling his dad’s post-Korean War experiences working in South Boston, make this a special treat for local fans. But other tunes like ‘‘Do Me,’’ ‘‘Out of My Head’’ and ‘‘When You Fall in Love’’ tap into that universal vein that makes Connolly’s work so riveting.
It is no stretch to view this album as a New Englander’s companion piece to ‘‘Devils and Dust,’’ with similar depth and passion, and no punches pulled.