Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen
On The Edge
4 stars (out of 5)
By Donald Teplyske
I first became aware of Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen upon the release of their debut self-titled album a few years ago. What caught my attention was their performance of John Stewart’s “July, You’re a Woman;” while the song had been recorded by other bluegrass bands, their inspired interpretation of this seldom-recorded song caused me to keep track of the band’s progress, and inspired me to delve deeper to discover a very enjoyable recording.
Solivan, a well-respected chef and mandolinist based in the D.C. area, returns with an album on Compass Records. With banjoist Mike Munford the sole holdover from the last album, Solivan and co-producer Brett Truitt maintain the band’s core musical philosophy: staying true to the music’s heart and soul while injecting a contemporary swagger born of diverse influence.
On The Edge doesn’t let up, not even when it slows down. A good example of this is the album’s first two songs. While “I Fell Short” is a spirited and ferocious kick-off, “Gone” takes a step or two back from the edge, allowing its intensity to smoulder; it is within this type of song that Solivan shines as a vocalist.
Danny Booth, who some will recognize from his time in the Kathy Kallick Band, offers harmony vocals while laying down the deep end. The native of Alaska also takes center stage to perform his own “Wild Unknown” with Solivan.
Youthful Chris Luquette produces sweet guitar licks all through the recording; especially notable is his work within “The Letter,” an interpretation of the Boxtops’ staple. Solivan may not match the desperation Alex Chilton conveyed on “The Letter”, but one can’t argue that Dirty Kitchen make the song their own.
Mike Munford, on the 5-string, demonstrates that he is pivotal to the band’s success. While apparent throughout the recording, Munford comes to the fore on his own “M80″ and the album’s other instrumental, the disc closing “Bedrock.” Yabba Dabba Do!, indeed.
Each song has something positive to offer, but the final vocal track “No Chance” may be the finest; everything comes together within this four-minute slice featuring extended, focused breaks and a convincing, first-person confessional.
Perennial Dobro Player of the Year Rob Ickes appears on four tracks, while Tim O’Brien contributes tenor to “On the Edge of Letting Go,” his vocal aura is so palpable as to favorably color the performance. Listening without liner notes, I found myself thinking, “That sounds like a Tim O’Brien song.”
Solivan’s cousin Megan McCormick also sings on two tracks, including on her own “Gone,” co-written with Tami Hinesh. Solivan also contributes violin on select tracks.
On The Edge is evidence that Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen are at the fore of bands showing the potential to lay claim to the top-rank within the modern bluegrass generation.