I last wrote about Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen last year when they released a terrific album, On the Edge, on Compass Records.
I’ve been listening to their new one Cold Spell off and on for a few weeks, and while it hasn’t ‘grabbed me’ the way On the Edge did I don’t think anyone should hold that against them; most likely, my reticence- and that is likely even too strong of a word- about this disc is largely due to my own issues. Cold Spell is a very clean sounding, polished modern bluegrass album. It goes a bit far out on Mr. Monroe’s proverbial limb, but maintains the energy and woody tones of more traditional bluegrass.
Cold Spell has at its core strong songwriting ideally balanced with exceptional instrumentation, powerful lead vocals, and precise and uplifting vocal harmony. A cover of Pure Prairie League’s “Country Song” moves along nicely, and there is a great little instrumental from Mike Munford (“Yeah Man”) that will appeal to those who think vocals just get in the way of a good bluegrass tune. A pair of Megan McCormick songs fit nicely with the songs the band members have written, and it is one of these that I would like to suggest for this week’s Roots Song of the Week.
“Say It Isn’t So” caught my attention from the start. When this song begins, Solivan’s voice immediately cuts through whatever minutiae has the listener’s attention. It is so clear and bright, communicating the heartfelt lyrics with obvious intensity. The song breaks from the bluegrass norm of a three-minute burner to open an album; “Say It Isn’t So” goes on for nearly six minutes and during that time the four-piece band has an opportunity to fully explore the melody.
It has just occurred to me that this song- and much of this album- reminds me of the type of music Nickel Creek explored (successfully or not, depending on your perspective) over the course of their albums of a decade ago. It pushes bluegrass to places that may not be immediately identified as ‘bluegrass’ but truly can’t be addressed as anything but bluegrass.
“Say It Isn’t So” is linked over at the Bluegrass Situation. I will continue to listen to Cold Spell, and I hope I can bring together some insights to write a full review. It is really a strong album comprised of good songs that feature a well-defined and consistent approach to bluegrass. The song “She Said She Will” should also do well for the group.
That’s my Roots Song of the Week for this week. I’ve neglected things a little as I’ve concentrated on other writing projects, and I apologize to those whose music I’ve over looked this summer. I am attempting to catch up. I have a piece about the new Jean Ritchie tribute album entitled Dear Jean going up at the Lonesome Road Review soon, and have linked several pieces here at Fervor Coulee over the summer. I have a stack ‘o stuff that I’m listening to including the recent John Hiatt, Billy Joe Shaver, and the third Baseball Project set. The new Laurie Lewis & Kathy Kallick tribute to Vern and Ray is completely engaging, and I’ll be getting to that one soon. And if you haven’t heard the new music from Bradford Lee Folk, do yourself a favour and check it out! That may be my favorite album of the summer. So much good music to write about, but more importantly to listen to!
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
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