THE PRESS release accompanying Pete Kennedy's new album, "Highway 10," describes it as "a soundtrack to a movie that doesn't exist . . . a loose concept album that tells the stories of a mythical small town off Interstate 10, the Gulf Coast Highway that snakes from Florida to New Orleans and points west." Anyone acquainted with the restlessness and recklessness that fuels blue collar rock is likely to find the characters, themes and terrain familiar, but overall the format allows Kennedy to show that his talents extend well beyond the sterling guitar work that first brought him recognition.
Not surprisingly, Springsteen's shadow looms large here. The emphasis on descriptive small town vignettes and character studies would have ensured that even if Kennedy's increasingly husky voice hadn't. "Norma Jean," "Run Red Lights," " '55 Nomad," "Eldorado" -- all pay freewheeling homage to Springsteen and earlier rock fundamentalists to one degree or another; the beat is unshakable, the spirit more than willing.
However, there's lots of soul-searching as well. Among the best tracks are "19 in Vietnam" and "Distant Thunder," both of which have long been Kennedy concert favorites, and the impeccable guitar pieces "Jacknife" and "Highway 10" (the latter featuring cameos by guitarist Tony Rice and dobroist Jerry Douglas). Also lending a strong assist are several Washington-based musicians, including singer-keyboardist Jon Carroll and drummer Pete Ragusa.
PETE KENNEDY -- "Highway 10" (PK). Appearing Friday at Durty Nelly's and Wednesday at Dunmor's.