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For the Kennedys, the road leads back to Stony Brook

The folk-rock husband and wife duo share their songs and their stories in Sunday Street Series concert.

Maura and Pete Kennedy will perform at Stony

Maura and Pete Kennedy will perform at Stony Brook University on Jan. 6. Photo Credit: Portraits by Michael Stahl

A cemetery may seem a counterintuitive choice for a first date, but it made perfect sense to musician Pete Kennedy when he asked out his wife, Maura, more than 25 years ago. “We took out a McNally road atlas to find somewhere equidistant from Austin, where she lived, and Telluride, my current stop on tour,” the guitarist-songwriter recalls. “It turned out to be Lubbock, Texas, Buddy Holly’s hometown. So we agreed to each drive 500 miles to meet at his gravesite.”

 It was the start not only of their love story, but a long history of being on the road as the folk-rock group The Kennedys. The duo, known for their affecting harmonies and impressive musicianship, return this weekend for the Long Island Museum’s Sunday Street Series, a gig they have played every year since 2004.

As in the past, The Kennedys will perform tracks from their latest collaborative album and recently released solo records, this year, Maura’s “Villanelle” and Pete’s “Heart of Gotham.” Along with favorites from their extensive catalog of original songs, the concert will also include covers of classic rock artists including Bob Dylan and The Beatles.

The playlist, notes Pete, holds particular appeal for baby boomers, not only in terms of genre but theme as well. “Safe Until Tomorrow,” the title song of the band’s newest release, for instance, addresses the topical subject of caregiving. “Taking care of elderly parents is a big factor for our audience — and ourselves,” says Pete. “We try to deal with issues that everyone has and give people encouragement.”

In addition to the band’s planned set and requests from concertgoers, Pete Kennedy will read passages from his just-published memoir “Tone, Twang and Taste: A Guitar Memoir,” recounting what he calls the “crazier” moments of his peripatetic musical career performing with the likes of Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Nanci  Griffith. In fact Pete was playing in Griffith’s band when he met Maura, who later joined the country star’s group as a harmony singer.

A natural storyteller, Pete shares even more narrative than what he reveals in the duo’s songs and his book excerpts as a guest this weekend on the long-running radio program “Sunday Street.” The weekly broadcast on WUSB/90.1 FM, hosted by Stony Brook University professor Charlie Backfish, is also a sponsor of the similarly named concert series.

But what the Kennedys most want to impart to their audience, says Pete, is the message of dedication to what you love most, something the couple has achieved in both their work and relationship. “Our music has one overall mood,” he says. “It’s uplifting and empowering.”

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WHEN | WHERE 3 p.m. Jan. 6, Gillespie Room at The Long Island Museum, 1200 Rte. 25A, Stony Brook

INFO $25-$30; 631-632-1093, sundaystreet.org

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