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Kathy Kallick Band

Horrible World – 2018 (Live Oak)

Reviewed by Donald Teplyske

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CDs by Kathy Kallick Band

Kathy Kallick voice is 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 embraces the complexities of relationships and daily life with ease. While she performs in a range of situations, never is she stronger than when fronting a vibrant, driving bluegrass band.

"Horrible World" continues the Kathy Kallick Band's streak of excellence. As always, her songs are meaningful creations speaking to innermost thoughts. She balances heady moments with unconventional renditions of familiar songs, recreating "Cotton-Eyed Joe" as a pensive 3/4 time ballad, before shifting gears a la Monroe's post-Presley "Blue Moon of Kentucky."

Tom Bekeny (mandolin) 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 the previous "Foxhounds": Annie Staninec (fiddle), Greg Booth (Dobro and banjo) and Cary Black (bass) along with Kallick (guitar) and Bekeny.

With a trio of instrumentals - one near-grass ("Cascade Blues"), one western swing ("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)" leading the way, "Horrible World" is an accessible release. This interpretation of "Dark As The Night" is bluesy and pure yearnsome. "Pockets Full of Rain" is a hopeful new-folk song, and "Ride Away" 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 traditions within its words and melody, and Staninec's singing style is well-suited to this old-timey song.

The closing "This Beautiful World" is a gentle meditation for hope and faith, as is the peppy "The Sunday Road."

The Kathy Kallick Band is one of the most consistent and satisfying bluegrass bands going, and "Horrible World" is evidence of their continuing mastery of the form.