Contemporary bluegrass comes in many varieties – neo-trad bands such as Del McCoury or Open Road, Nash-Vegas acts such as Rhonda Vincent or The Grascals, “newgrass” bands such as John Cowan and Sam Bush, Jam/rock/bluegrass bands like Drew Emmitt/Nershi or the Avett Brothers, and grass/jazz groups including David Grisman’s Quintet, Crooked Still, and Psychograss.
Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen don’t f it into those categories ; rather, they combine the energy of a hardcore traditional band with a more modern and contemporary folk-inf luenced sound.
Guitarist Lincoln Meyers and banjo player Mike Munford have clean lyrical styles that augment Solivan’s incisive mandolin. Many of the tunes, such as “Together We’ll Fly,” feature three-part instrumental breaks that require absolute precision and melodic efficacy. On the instrumental “Line Drive,” Solivan, Munford, and Meyers each take multiple solos, and every solo is a little gem. Unlike young players who try to dazzle with tirades of triplets, the members of Dirty Kitchen contribute clean, melodic lines instead of a f lurry of notes.
Dirty Kitchen’s vocals and harmonies are nearly as impressive as their instrumental chops. While not quite as drop-dead perfect as, say, Doyle Lawson’s Quicksilver or the original Country Gentlemen, Dirty Kitchen’s singing is clearly not subservient to their picking.
With seven originals among the 12 songs here, Solivan unveils his other skill – songwriting. “Tarred and Feathered,” with its combination of blue, modal, and purposeful rhythm, makes for an instant classic. On “Same Old Love” (which he co-wrote with Charles Tyson) they’ve successfully combined equal parts country toe-stepper and folkie ballad.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Dec. ’10 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.