Kickin’ Grass Band is a strongly traditional bluegrass band, singing songs of death and loss, redemption and revival. Singer and guitarist Linda Dawson authored about half the songs here, and she writes in a powerfully traditional style that matches her achingly sincere vocal style very well. Hank Smith is a superb young banjo player, incorporating both traditional and post-modern banjo styles into his playing. His solo on the intro to the band’s dark and moody “Thirty One” is riveting. Fiddler Patti Hopkins has a strong streak of the blues in her playing, while mandolinist Jamie Dawson shows a flair for capturing the great sounds of Monroe and other traditional players in his work.
At times the band falters a bit, with a few flat notes in the vocals and a beat that drags behind the tempo. But that’s the sign of a young band still evolving and exploring its own signature sound and feel. Definitely, the high points, like the startling sound of “The Filling Station,” far outweigh some of the few low spots like “Sugar” and “Blue Railroad Train,” a tune only the bravest and best bluegrass bands should even consider covering. “That’s What I Like About The South” perfectly showcases what makes the band musically interesting, using Dawson’s sultry voice to perfection while layering in fiddle and banjo over the swinging beat. And “Roanoke” gives the band a great chance to showcase their traditional chops and feel for straight-up bluegrass.
Hard times and human tragedy on a very personal level have haunted the members of Kickin’ Grass Band over the last few years. That grief—and the strength it takes to overcome such losses and hardship—infuses this CD on every track. “Everything And Everyone” is their musical response, refusing to succumb to sorrow and depression, but rising to live another day. There are lessons for all of us in this young band’s experiences, and a journey not to be taken lightly across the 13 tracks on Walk With Me. (www.kickingrass.com)DJM