With their second release, Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen could now be reaching the kind of name recognition that puts them into any conversation about the elite contemporary bands. Their debut, which hit the bluegrass charts and launched a single, “Driftin’ Apart,” to number eight, gave them a good start toward that distinction. On The Edge might be the recording to do it.
Certainly the intricate and precision-demanding arrangements coupled with the high caliber of musicianship necessary to make them work is much in their favor. Solivan, an immense talent as both a lead singer and as a mandolinist and fiddler, and founding member Mike Munford, who spins out some of the finest and stylistically-distinct banjo solos going, are known quantities and are at their best here. Newcomers Chris Luquette on guitar and vocals and Danny Booth on bass and vocals are more than equal to the task.
All that is needed is a set of worthy songs, and that is what this recording offers, predominantly. There are ten tracks here, ranging from somewhat straight bluegrass to funky grinds to jazz and rock-tinged numbers. Two of them are instrumentals, one a blistering Munford original, “M80,” full of his rapid and clear up-and-down patterns, one “Bedrock,” a group effort that starts off ragtime and segues into a minorish tune. Three of the songs were written or co-written by Solivan, and a couple more are from contemporary songwriters. Only, the Box Tops’ rock classic “The Letter,” on which the band lets go, tossing solos around gloriously, is a known tune. Any number of them have chart potential, but safe bets include the brightly tuned but angst-driven opener “I Fell Short” and Solivan’s “Day To Day,” also brightly tuned but singing of trouble. “The Letter” might also get some play.
How far this goes to solidifying Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen’s reputation, only time will tell. They’ve made a strong case, regardless. (Compass Records, 916 19th Ave. S., Nashville, TN 37212, www.compassrecords.com.)BW