B i o g r a p h y
Hike Up Your Socks
On Hike Up Your Socks, San Francisco based singer-songwriter Liz Kennedy’s latest full length album of soulful and poetic narratives, Kennedy finds fresh ways to define rootsy – including bringing in legendary bluesman Taj Mahal who plays harmonica on the front porch ballad “Love Gave Me Away” and contributes his inimitable vocals and banjo to the buoyant opener “Everyone Knows How It Goes.” “This album is more rootsy than anything I’ve done before in two ways,” she says. “First, there’s the overall acoustic sound of the instruments, incorporating rock and blues elements, coupled with the fact that I’m digging deeper into my own folk music roots as a kid of the 60’s.”
The 12 track collection is produced by Joel Jaffe whose credits include Maria Muldaur, Lenny Williams and Magic Christian. Jaffe helmed all Kennedy’s previous recordings, Clean White Shirt, A Good Peach, Nothing Like an Angel and Speed Bump. He also plays guitars, dobro, mandolin, lap steel and ebow joining several other Bay Area greats including keyboardist Eammon Flynn, drummer Billy Johnson, bassist Marc Levine, accordionist Pete Cortino, fiddler Suzy Thompson, and background vocalists Omega Rae and Lorin Rowan.
“Everyone Knows How It Goes” introduces the sound of the album. Kennedy wrote the tune after heading off with a pack of her old friends to Desert Trip, the 2016 classic rock festival in Indio, CA some affectionately dubbed “Oldchella”. “This song is a tribute to Neil Young and also to Taj Mahal, who joined me in recording it,” Kennedy says. “It is a tribute to the fine music that defined us and still does. We would all just be lumps of skin and hair in a corner somewhere without that music holding us together, giving us shape and form. We worshipped them all, and we learned their songs in cramped rooms ‘with candles and wine.’ ”
The fascinating part of Kennedy’s writing process is the wide and unexpected sources of inspiration. Sometimes, it’s a sad place, as on the plaintive, haunting “Not Ready,” a song about her late husband Michael’s passing. “His death was awful, yet beautiful. It’s strange how sadness can enrich feelings.” Other times, it’s from a more whimsical thought, as on the jaunty title track “Hike Up Your Socks.” When it comes to love, Kennedy can be happily blindsided (“Hello Romance,”) cleverly cautious (“Heart Test”) or longing to rediscover the joy that seems to be adrift (“On the Water”). One of the most entertaining moments is “The Best Worst Times,” a French and New Orleans flavored romp about a trip with college friends to Europe gone awry.
After graduating from Stanford University, where she studied anthropology, journalism and communications, she settled in the Bay Area, where she worked for film companies that made TV commercials for many years. Long before reality TV became a mainstream part of our culture, Kennedy specialized in casting real people (instead of professional actors) for commercials. She was also married and raised two children. In her later 40s, around the time she began realizing she had “songs in my head” that had never been recorded, she met Jaffe, who liked what he heard and encouraged her to take her work as a singer/songwriter more seriously. In addition to her growing catalog of recordings, she has performed over the years at such renowned Bay Area hotspots as the Razz Room, the Throckmorton, Doc’s Lab and Angelicas.
Kennedy is becoming more and more interested in performing, enjoying the connection people make to her songs. Yet before performing there is recording. “There are inexpressibly sublime moments in the studio, listening to what these great musicians bring to my songs,” she says. “I have literally fallen to my knees with the joy of an unexpectedly beautiful touch. There’s no greater moment for me than when we are all listening to the finished product and loving what we hear, experiencing our collective ownership.”