Cut to the Chase
Live Oak 590
More than a decade before the arrival on the scene in the late 1980s of the teenaged wunderkind Alison Krauss, a band called The Good Ol’ Persons emerged from California and proved that not only was it okay for bluegrass and country bands to have more than one “girl singer,” but that a band composed of all or mostly women could write, perform and draw crowds as well as the guys could. With her longtime friend Laurie Lewis, it was Kathy Kallick who helped blaze the trail and open doors for Krauss and other sterling female talents to pass through. Nearly four decades later, with Cut To The Chase, Kallick demonstrates convincingly that not only are her bluegrass chops still in good working order, but she’s still among the more distinctive and adventurous talents in what’s come to be known as the “Americana” format.
She’s backed up by her current Kathy Kallick Band (Annie Staninec, fiddle; Greg Booth, banjo and Dobro; Tom Bekeny, mandolin; and Cary Black, bass), and the roster of guests includes notable GOP’s alums Sally Van Meter and John Reischman, as well as guitarist Clive Gregson, with whom Kallick wrote three of the thirteen cuts (and the other ten all on her own). Co-producing with Tom Size, the material and arrangements highlight Kallick’s keen ability to tell a good story. “Same Old Song” revolves cleverly around the clichés that seem to mark every budding romance, “The Night The Boat Capsized” travels from vulnerability and sheer terror to survival and confidence, and “The Rustler’s Girl” is something of a modern version, set out on the range, of the old “Black Jack Davy” ballads.
It’s on the collaborations with Gregson, though, where Kallick really stretches out. “Franco’s Spain” is the tale of an American ingénue who learns that history takes place regardless of who’s around to watch, but “all the discos let us in for free.” “The Time Traveler’s Wife” elicits the seeming time/space distortion of wondering whether or not you’re in love or out of it. The album’s title track expresses the everywoman’s dream of telling the date from Hell to “get the Hell away from me.” It’s daring writing for someone who’s been in bluegrass for 40 years, but she carries it off well. An intriguing instrumental aspect to the album is the pairing of Booth’s Dobro with Bobby Black’s pedal steel guitar, producing a sound with it’s own brand of lonesome. Kathy Kallick has never been one to stand pat and do the same old thing, and it’s a big reason for the respect she’s garnered for so long.
— John Lupton