kathy kallick band brick wall

Foxhounds

foxhounds

“Kathy Kallick has led a preeminent bluegrass band in Northern California for a long time. Her distinctive voice brings to mind great female singers of the past like Wilma Lee Cooper. Her band is top-flight and really delivers the goods.

Annie Staninec plays fiery fiddle. Tom Bekeny’s mandolin has that classic woody drive in its attack. Cary Black lays down a fine underpinning to the proceedings on bass. Greg Booth’s banjo and resonator guitar are a joy to hear, and Kallick’s guitar drives the rhythm. They all shine on the instrumental reading of “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down.” And unlike some bands, they all sing.

There are some great new original songs such as ‘So Danged Lonesome’ and ‘Snowflakes.” Staninec lays down a very driving version of the old fiddle tune ‘Roscoe,’ and the whole band jumps into the fray making the old tune spin like a whirling dervish. It’s refreshing to hear a band reach back into the tradition for material. They also dip into the past for a great song from Mac Martin, ‘I’ll Forgive You;’ the old mountain standard ‘Banjo Pickin’ Girl’ is attributed to Lily Mae Ledford of the original Coon Creek Girls. Annie Staninec sings lead of this cut and on ‘Sally Ann.’

They do reach out for a Richard Thompson number, ‘Tear Stained Letter.’ The great trio really adds to the original ‘Longest Day Of the Year.’

This is truly a band effort, and their sound is traditional and unique. This makes for a very refreshing outing and a fine recording worthy of your attention. With seven originals on this project, it makes Kallick a triple-threat as singer, songwriter, and masterful band leader. If you love traditional bluegrass, don’t miss this gem.”

– Robert C. Buckingham, Bluegrass Unlimited

Bluegrass singer and band-leader Kathy has been a key force in contemporary bluegrass for well over three decades now, and although she’s proved herself a marvellous songwriter and solo performer in her own right she’s also done the genre a great service by forming her own band. After four albums, the west-coast-based Kathy Kallick Band has just recruited bassist Cary Black to join Kathy herself and her colleagues Tom Bekeny (mandolin), Greg Booth (dobro, banjo) and Annie Staninec (fiddle). They still play the tried-and-tested mixture of hot bluegrass and cool originals, and latter category provides the album’s opening trio of standout cuts, in my book all virtually guaranteed instant-classic status, from the joyful backporch nostalgia of the title track through the beauteous hurtin’ of “So Danged Lonesome” to “I’m Not Your Honey-Baby Now,” a contemporary love-song set in the style of an old-timey breakdown.

And so the disc continues, every single cut exhibiting that characteristic sense of sparkling yet relaxed drive and entirely confident instrumental chops, with splendid, almost incidental, vocal harmonies from every member of the band – you can sure tell they’re in tune with each other in every sense. In the lead-vocal department, Kathy naturally takes the lion’s share and shows her versatility from the lovely folksy reminiscence “Longest Day Of The Year” and the affectionate ode “My Montana Home” to the tough pell-mell of Richard Thompson’s “Tear Stained Letter” (a “closet-bluegrass” moment if ever there was!). But Annie also shows herself every bit the equal when she steps up to take the lead on Allison Fisher’s “Sally Ann” and Lily Mae Ledford’s “Banjo Pickin’ Girl” (A real live-set showstopper!). Indeed, the whole band has great fun with their tasty licks and solos on these tracks, and Greg makes good capital out of his dobro when he turns the old Flatt & Scruggs number “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down” into a rip-roaring instrumental showcase to complement the more traditional fiddle’n’banjo square dance tune “Roscoe” and Tom’s fearless Bill Monroe outing “Kentucky Mandolin” further on into the disc. The latter, with its wonderfully wayward diversions from other band members, might seem a natural finale, but instead the disc fades off into the sunset with Kathy’s mex-shuffle-paced “In Texas,” which was inspired by her daughter Riley’s trip to the Lone Star state.

The 49 minutes of Foxhounds passes by all too fast, and it all shows beyond doubt that here Kathy’s got herself a crack band that’s unafraid to take bluegrass out of its comfort zone and yet remain staunchly true to its tradition.

Bluegrass doesn’t get more solid than the music on this, Kathy Kallick’s 20th album. Kallick herself is an institution in bluegrass, not only through her work with this band but as a founding member of the Good Ol’ Persons, plus her solo work and duets with many of her contemporaries. There’s nothing on this album but 14 tracks of rock-solid acoustic country music, from old-time to bluegrass to contemporary folk to some tasty covers. It kicks off with the title track, a sure-footed mid-tempo bluegrass number that puts Kallick’s vocals front and center on the verses and let the rest of the band show off their beautiful harmonies. Bekeny gets in a knock-out mandolin solo with some bluesy dissonance, and young Staninec shows off her sweet fiddling. She keeps it going when she kicks off the soulful, rootsy song “So Dang Lonesome” with some absolutely knock-out fiddle licks. Both of those are Kallick originals, as are fully half of the record. Sure to be among the most popular is the heady bluegrass workout “I’m Not Your Honey-Baby Now,” which gives Kallick and Staninec a chance to showcase the way their voices harmonize and Booth gets to do some Scruggs-style picking. Foxhounds further cements her legacy as one of the greats, plus it’s a lot of fun to listen to.

Kathy’s original songs exhibit her unique compositional approach to bluegrass, her distinctive, evocative lyric style; in singing them, she charges them with her unique vocal style, an amalgam of her life’s experience and her love of the tradition of the bluegrass form; in plainer words, she never sounds artsy or out of place fronting a band chock full of hot players and singers, as she does here, and in fact has been doing since before I met her … and we go back a ways. What about “Foxhounds,” the title tune? Well, in her notes on the song, Kathy says she had the opportunity once in the early ’80s to sit on the porch with Big Mon himself and listen to his foxhounds run. One can imagine him listening to Kathy’s song and exclaiming, “Yessir, them hounds cryin’, soundin’ off – it’s in my music…and it’s right in that song there, too.”

Kathy magically blends heartfelt vocals with her own contemporary songs and a top notch band to deliver an album that should be on everyone’s play list. Kathy pays homage to the father of bluegrass in the opening song “Foxhounds.” Annie’s spirited fiddle introduction sets the stage for the story of Bill Monroe’s delight in listening to the baying of his hounds from his porch. Other songs offer insights into love and the effort to make relationships prosper. “So Danged Lonesome” was written by Kathy and Cary Black and its images of broken windows, train whistles, and a heart filling with tears defines sorrow while the dobro and mandolin add to the lonesome sound. “I’m Not Your Honey Baby Now” is a jewel of a song: spot on lyrics that pinpoint a beguiling effort to win over a love and high-powered instrumentation led by Greg’s banjo and Annie’s fiddle.

Kathy Kallick is always a bit of an adventurer and you can never be sure what her next recorded outing might bring. When she has the band with her, you are assured high-quality, literate and respectful bluegrass music: they never take their audience for granted, never rest on their laurels. Such is the case with Foxhounds, an album that starts off with a new song in tribute to Bill Monroe and continues with an exciting exploration of the range and depth of the bluegrass tradition. The album’s greatest strengths lay within Kallick’s new songs; the band is top-notch throughout, and all members are featured in a variety of ways including vocally.

Excellent musicianship complementing story-filled original songs, Foxhounds is fresh and original, and Bluegrass at its purest. “So Dang Lonesome” follows the fiddle-driven pattern that “Foxhounds” started. The track is rooted in soul, which is evident in Kallick’s soulful vocal delivery. It’s definitely one of the highlights of the record. The evocative “Snowflakes” is as beautiful lyrically as it is instrumentally. I’d recommend this record to anyone looking for great new Bluegrass/Folk music. It was definitely an enjoyable listen!

Match a seasoned performer, musician and composer with excellent musicians, and you expect a really good CD. Kathy Kallick’s isn’t just really good, it’s excellent. Greg Booth gets in some impressive licks on the banjo, bringing back memories of Sonny Osborne’s sometimes freewheeling approach. Booth switches to Dobro on Mac Martin’s “I’ll Forgive You,” supported by Staninec’s fiddle, bringing back memories of fiddlers like Kenny Baker and Benny Martin. Kallick’s unadorned voice is a perfect match for these songs. Imagine the Carter Family recording in a modern studio; she would fit right in. If you like smooth, tight harmony vocals, the title song will please greatly because the band is in top form with another Kallick composition.

Veteran West Coast roots singer/guitarist Kathy Kallick makes bluegrass records that at their best — and decades into it she makes nothing less — are exciting propositions. She’s as gripping a vocalist as anybody on the scene, she has a superior band and she writes and chooses superb material. If you ask for more than that, may the universe forgive you. One hears what makes Kallick’s approach different from that of many current acts: her grounding not only in traditional ‘grass but in older mountain music. Few present-day artists in the genre share her grasp of the larger folk background from which bluegrass emerged in the middle of the last century. Though it isn’t reviving them in any stale imitative sense, the Kathy Kallick Band knows those styles and incorporates them into its own sound. That means that you’re not only hearing traditional songs but also new material that feels richer and fuller of body than the average bluegrass composition, in which the lyrics typically recycle genre cliches while the real interest focuses on hot picking.

I’m normally a bigger fan of the more progressive and indie spins on bluegrass than the old timey or high lonesome sound.  But I found Foxhounds taking me back to summers decades past when I was first discovering bluegrass and how enthralled I was with the dynamic nature of the music.  Just like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf begat rock and roll, this is the music that led to so much of what we love about Americana today.  You should give Foxhounds a listen.