AMY CURL & DAN KENNEDY – Sharing a Head
The union of these two underrated Madison artists has produced some of the best songs in the last couple of years. With Amy Curl and Dan Kennedy, it’s all about the songwriting.
Sharing a Head is the second EP from the pair, following 2007’s In an Orderly Fashion. This time around, the duo are joined by Sean Michael Dargan and Michael Brenneis on bass and drums, respectively. In fact, the songs are credited equally to all four, making this a somewhat bona fide band. Dargan, Brenneis and Kennedy have a lot of history together, performing and recording under several monikers including the Sean Michael Dargan Band and Albert. This EP is again produced by Eric Hester and released on his Slothtrop Records. Recording was done at Smart with Mike Zirkel.
Curl and Kennedy’s voices really make sparks, the best example being the quirky pop song, “Siamese Twins.” All these songs use lyrical metaphors to describe relationships and this one has got to be the strangest. Set to a bubbling Beatle-esque arrangement, it runs through a combination of chord changes that would do Paul McCartney or Elvis Costello proud. Here Curl and Kennedy sing in tandem with Kennedy voicing the main melody.
The standout track, however, is the lush and beautiful “In the Grass” with a cryptic two-stanza lyric that repeats five times. Interspersed with interludes, the track builds dramatically over it’s five-plus minutes of length. Kennedy’s guitar playing is never overstated. Here he uses his tasteful approach to maximum effect while always serving the song. Curl has long been one of my favorite singer/songwriters. Her voice is so expressive and clear, with just the right amount of tease, and here she brings new power and emotion to a simply-stated lyrical theme.
The final track, a vocal and piano offering from Curl, is a cleverly-worded tale of Hazel, an ex-con who is about to solve all her new employer’s problems. That is, until she ties him up and then…you’ll just have to use your imagination. In fact this track is a testament to the power and sophistication of the lyrics throughout the EP.
Curl and Kennedy exemplify a level of artistry that goes largely unnoticed in Madison, a trait that is not so becoming for the city. Artists as good as this, along with the whole stable of Madison Songwriters Group alumni, should not be treated with such indifference.