Kathy Kallick Band "Horrible World" Live Oak Records [http://kathykallick.com]
I've been writing about Kathy Kallick almost as long as I've been writing about roots music.
With others, I produced a concert for the Kathy Kallick Band, have bought several CDs-and been afforded others- and spent time listening to her music at multiple festivals and various stages-I am positive both as a reformed Good Ol' Persons (although I can locate no record of such) and as the KKB-while having a couple semi-private chats with her. She is undoubtedly one of my favourite bluegrass and Americana performers.
Kathy Kallick's voice is always warm and inviting, even when singing songs with the coldest of themes: she knows her way around a murderin' outlaw song as well as anyone, and yet can embrace the complexities of relationships and daily life with seeming ease. While she can and does perform in a range of situations, never is she so strong than when fronting a vibrant, driving bluegrass band, and over the past many years has been releasing complex and engaging albums with her band.
"Warmer Shade of Blue" (2005) reached a level few bands can ever achieve, and yet she built upon those with "Between the Hollow & the High-Rise" (2010) and "Foxhounds" (2015) while never faltering. Her recording of a few years back with Laurie Lewis honouring Vern & Ray also deserves recognition.
"Horrible World" (countered both in song and on the back cover with "It's A Beautiful World") continues the Kathy Kallick Band's streak of excellence. As always, her songs are deep and meaningful creations, ones that find a way to speak to innermost thoughts. She balances these heady moments with unconventional renditions of familiar songs, for example recreating "Cotton-Eyed Joe" as a pensive 3/4 time ballad, before shifting gears ala Monroe's post-Presley "Blue Moon of Kentucky."
Tom Bekeny (mandolin) has been part of the group since the start and "Walkin' In My Shoes" (1999), and is as central to the KKB sound as its namesake. His interaction with bandmates during the extended instrumental break within the telling "Nothin' So Bad (It Can't Get Worse)" is notable. The lineup of the group remains consistent from "Foxhounds": Annie Staninec (fiddle), Greg Booth (Dobro and banjo), and Cary Black (bass) along with Kallick (guitar) and Bekeny. As usual, everyone sings various bits and parts.
With a trio of instrumentals-one near-grass ("Cascade Blues"), one western swingin' ("Boot Heel Drive") and one bonafide 'grass (Bekeny's "Edale)"-and familiar songs including "My Honey Lou" and "Dark As The Night (Blue As The Day,)" which was one of the finer songs on the Good Ol' Persons' "Good 'n' Live" set many years ago, leading the way, "Horrible World" is a very accessible bluegrass release. This interpretation of "Dark As The Night" is stellar, bluesy and pure yearnsome. "Pockets Full of Rain" is a hopeful (vaguely familiar sounding) new-folk song, and "Ride Away" is a spirited 'bad guy' tale, and Kallick goes hard-as she often does-to give voice to this spritely number. "Solid Gone" incorporates years of folk-country-and bluegrass tradition within its words and melody, and Staninec's singing style is well-suited to this old-timey song.
The album closing "This Beautiful World," a John Reischman-Kallick co-write is a gentle meditation for hope and faith, as is "The Sunday Road," albeit with a bit more pep.
The Kathy Kallick Band is one of the strongest, most consistent and satisfying bluegrass bands going. That they never receive their due from the IBMA voting membership come awards time is a shame. An album like "Horrible World" could change that, should folks in positions of influence ever bleeding notice. But I've been saying similar things for 15 years.