The Kathy Kallick Band Between the Hollow and the High-Rise Live Oak Records www.KathyKallick.com
Kathy Kallick never disappoints. Her voice conveys such warmth that it fair melts even the most stridently traditional bluegrass purist. For more years than many of us have been listening to the music, Kallick has not only been blazing a trail for females wanting to sing harmony-rich bluegrass but has been leading some of the strongest outfits the west coast has experienced.
While she can and does feature songs that drip with the traditional and beloved trappings of bluegrass- ‘Where Is My Little Cabin Home” and “(Get Along Home) Cindy” (sung by Dan Booth) being just two on this set- she isn’t afraid to take the music elsewhere. “Monobrow” (written by Greg Booth) is a lively instrumental that features some playfulness within its strings; it isn’t by accident that almost all the letters in Monroe are in the title. “Whistle Stop Town” is simply a masterfully written song- and Kallick has written more than a few of these in the past- with each word and note resonating emotions, challenges, and insight. “New White House Blues” captures the frustrations of (much of) a nation and continent.
The current crew comprising KKB is certainly talented, as they demonstrated a year ago in Red Deer. Not featured when they visited us, fiddler Annie Staninec provides lovely back-up accompaniment and- like all members of the band- shines when she is provided space for a solo; she even sings a little on “The Snow.”
I didn’t think I needed to hear “Panhandle Rag” again anytime soon, but a listen to Greg’s adaptation made me reconsider- do some YouTube Googling for video. While Kathy does some solo singing on this album- most impressively on her own “My House”- when joined in harmony by Tom Bekeny and the Booths, things become a little more special.
A nod toward the visual team of photographer Anne Hamersky and designer Lisa Berman is also in order. The art work and layout is visually pleasing, is functional and flows with a nice balance of colours, fonts, and shapes.
Like substituting pork for beef in a familiar recipe, Kathy Kallick and her band play bluegrass with a distinctive and fresh flavour. There is a bit of blues in a couple places, a touch of swing in others, and a smidgeon of folk mixed throughout. Put some drive behind all that, and you’ve got a winning bluegrass album. At a generous 47-minutes and 14 songs, Between the Hollow and the High-Rise is a great place to be!