Kathy Kallick, an esteemed veteran of the thriving West Coast bluegrass community, shines on her 17th album, not only as a singer and songwriter, but as a bandleader, as well. Time is very much an ensemble project, with Kallick and her four bandmates all making major contributions to these 14 cuts as pickers and writers, as well as lead and harmony singers.
Kallick & Co. keep one foot firmly and tastefully anchored in tradition. Included here are stirring covers of a handful of bluegrass chestnuts, including the Delmore Brothers’ “I’m Lonesome Without You,” Vern (Williams’) and Ray (Parker’s) “Thinkin’ Of Home,” Fiddlin’ Arthur Smith’s “North Carolina Breakdown,” and Bill Monroe’s “Lord Protect My Soul.” The newer material, including four Kallick originals—“Fare Thee Well,” “Bird,” “Lulu And Jack,” and the title tune—more than holds its own when juxtaposed with the above-mentioned classics. Ditto for the thrilling instrumentals, including “Shuckin’ The Acorns” (written by reso-guitar/banjo player/vocalist Greg Booth) and “Old Red Mandolin” (penned by singer/mandolin player Tom Bekeny).
On “Old Black Choo-Choo,” co-written by Terry Fell and Henry Maddox and recorded previously by both Rose Maddox and the Strange Creek Singers, Kallick turns in a particularly delightful vocal performance that features both clever word play and lively sound effects. On their immensely soulful duet rendition of the traditional “Long Time Travelin’,” Kallick and fiddler/vocalist Annie Staminec serve up shared lead and harmony vocals that are nearly magical in their beauty and intensity. (Live Oak Records, P.O. Box 21344, Oakland, CA 94620, www.kathykallick.com.)BA