All Will Prosper
That Keith Kenniff has chosen to base his latest Goldmund collection on traditional Civil War-era folk songs won't be a major surprise to listeners familiar with previous Goldmund releases like 2005's Corduroy Road and 2008's The Malady of Elegance, as a traditional folk character has always been a prominent part of the project. All Will Prosper merely renders that aspect as explicit as it could possibly be in fourteen traditional songs and one contemporary track composed by Jay Ungar, “Ashoken Farewell.”
Recorded over a five-year period in various houses in Massachusetts, Oregon, and North Carolina, All Will Prosper offers stirring moments of grace and hope in lyrical ballads and marches that generally state their case in two-minute helpings. Kenniff keeps a tight rein on the arrangements, content to primarily present them in acoustic guitar-and-piano garb and adorn them with subtle enhancements where necessary. The material's intimate character is enhanced by the up-close recording technique that the Portland-based multi-instrumentalist used for the project. One seemingly hears every trace of his fingers moving and up down the guitar's fretboard, and the mechanical action of the piano's keys and pedals are audible, too. It often feels as if one is sitting on an old wooden chair next to the piano with Kenniff playing one serenade after another for his enthralled listener.
Kenniff includes a goodly portion of familiar fare on the recording—“Amazing Grace,” “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” and “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” among others—and delivers it with sensitivity and grace. He manages to breathe new life into such cozy chestnuts as “Dixie” through the affection he so clearly feels for the material, and conveys inspiring uplift in nuanced renderings of “Battle Cry of Freedom” and “Shenandoah.” All told, it's a lovely collection that weighs in at a flab-free thirty-four minutes, and Kenniff's playing is, as usual, understated and tasteful. If there's a downside to the recording—a small one, at that—it's simply the fact that no Kenniff originals are included, so no opportunity is granted for the listener to sample Kenniff's own distinctive compositional voice. But, given how prolific he is, it likely won't be long before we get to hear fresh material composed by him, whether it be in the form of a new Helios or future Goldmund release.