Let’s Be Frank

Where is bluegrass music going? The question comes up in my life and work more often than you could believe. But it’s important because for every hard-core traditionalist who thinks a bluegrass angel dies every time Yonder Mountain String Band takes the stage, there are (by my reasonably informed guesstimate) ten or more music fans who love and appreciate the diversity of today’s scene, where The Gibson Brothers and Del McCoury can play the same festival stages as Deadly Gentlemen and Milk Drive.

My simple one-band answer to the question above used to be The Infamous Stringdusters, because I valued their passion for and skill at both directions in bluegrass – forward and back. They could knock you out with a Bill Monroe cover and then jam with jazzgrass master David Grisman and sound great either way. Now that the Dusters are launched on a very successful indie career, my new shorthand answer is Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen. I get a lot of everything I love about bluegrass old and new in Frank’s music, from a bold and distinctive voice to mesmerizing instrumental skills. And I think you’ll agree when FSDK plays Roots on Wednesday night in the show-closing slot.

To ease my work load on this busy weekend, let me share with you a couple of outlets where I’ve recently covered Frank Solivan and his music. Roots posted my in-depth Connect interview with him a few weeks ago, where we talk about his fascinating life story (California > Alaska > The U.S. Navy’s country/grass band Country Current > solo career based in Washington DC.) We recently released a Frank Solivan track on our GrassRoots compilation album as part of our Roots Recordings series. And here are the opening paragraphs of the liner notes I wrote for Frank’s newest and finest album On The Edge. This project arrived late last month from our friends at Compass Records, who seem to believe in the artist’s future as much as I do.

There’s no adequate English translation for the concept of joie de vivre. “Joy of life” just sounds dumb. Fun-loving? Yuck. Enthusiastic? Better, but inadequate. All I know is that it’s a splendid virtue, and Frank Solivan exudes it.

Nobody’s stereotype of a bluegrass musician, he’s Mediterranean handsome with a goatee and a baldpate so magnificent it suggests its own planet. When I met Frank I thought he looked like a cross between a dock worker, a happy pizza maker and a monk. When I heard about his life, that turned out to be not too far off the mark. This fascinating, self-actualizing guy has lived and traveled abundantly, and while I hope you get to experience his spirit one day as I have in friendship or foodie fellowship, you are perhaps even now experiencing it in this joy-filled, life-filled album.

And I go on to talk about some of the specifics of On The Edge – the quality songwriting, the inspired cover of the Boxtops single “The Letter” and the vivacious instrumentals that show off the daring and originality of Frank’s mandolin, the banjo work of the legendary Mike Munford and the polish and daring of new guitarist Chris Luquette. I end up asserting that if you get into Frank’s music, you’ll have more joie in your vivre. Read the full liner notes are HERE.

And of course there’s more artistry on tap for our night of live Americana on the radio and the web. We’re going to enjoy a visit from a duo that’s in the middle of its big break as behind-the-scenes music creators for the hit show Nashville. Sarah Zimmermann and Justin Davis are writers of the wonderful “When The Right One Comes Along” and the more recent show-stopper “Hangin’ On A Lie.” They’ve also made a debut performance on the Grand Ole Opry. Together they perform as Striking Matches, and we think they will catch fire with our audience.

Also on the bill, young and exciting Casey Wasner, who seems to have a broad range of influences and a positive, centered energy. His video bio couldn’t be more appealing or appetite-whetting. Eager to see Casey do his thing. Same with Sara Syms. She’s a Chicago native now in Brooklyn who recently released her first album Fade To Blue, which you can check out HERE. She gathered her experience from years of working with various bands and songwriting to make a very personal album that some roots music bloggers have tapped as an exceptional debut outing.

So we’ll see you there or online. Doors at 6 pm. The Loveless Kitchen will be clean. The bluegrass on stage will have some dirt in it. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

Craig H.

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