Laurie Jennings understands the merits of being a singer, songwriter, and entrepreneur. As former proprietor of Homestead's now-defunct Mainstreet Café, she not only developed a solid reputation by booking nationally renowned folk acts but also frequently performed with her own house band, the Pathfinders. Although the club is now closed, Jennings hasn't given up on her singing career. She's partnered with local guitarist Dana Keller (who found his niche as a session player for Stevie Wonder and Vince Gill), and the duo are hitting the local coffeehouse circuit with original folk tunes that would likely find Joni Mitchell and Janis Ian nodding in approval. The result of this roots-rock partnership manifests in Susan's House, a sweetly serene acoustic collection that conjures up Day-Glo visions of incense, patchouli, and tie-dye. With Jennings' clear, crystalline vocals and Keller's vibrant picking on acoustic guitar and dobro buoying the arrangements, lilting tunes such as "Saying Goodbye," "The Ocean of My Heart," and "Time Changes" bear the grace and finesse of traditional folk compositions. At times, the couple's starry-eyed sentiments are charmingly childlike, as reflected in "I Wanted to Be Maria," a song inspired by the singing nun from The Sound of Music, and the album's title tune, an evocative ode to a friend's house turned haven. The jaunty song "Smart Blonde" shows that the duo is also satirical and proves that even the fiercest stereotype can't derail earnest intentions.
Jennings & Keller host a CD-release party on Saturday, March 3, at the site of the former Mainstreet Café, 128 N. Krome Ave., Homestead. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $15. Call 786-371-7410.