Monday was Frank Solivan’s 34th birthday, but the crowd who spent it with him in a Rockville, MD, church hall got the present – two and a half hours of pickin’ and singin’ by an all-star lineup usually only seen in Nashville.
The Institute of Musical Traditions show was a homecoming of sorts for Solivan, who settled in the Washington, D.C., area after stint in the Navy, but has been on a national tour in support of his new CD, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen.
Frank and the band – Mike Munford on banjo, Lincoln Meyers on guitar, Stefan Custodi on bass and Frank swapping between the mandolin and fiddle – are fine pickers and singers on their own. But on this night, the friends who joined him added an extra dimension that a couple hundred ticket buyers won’t soon forget.
At one point, Frank was flanked by Wayne Taylor, who had been his boss in the Navy Band Country Current, and by Bill Emerson, who had been Taylor’s superior in an earlier lineup of the band. One of the songs they did, Hello Friend, summed up the generations of talent on the stage and the passage of time, with Frank singing, “I can see the years have us slowed us down. It’s good to see they haven’t changed our style.”
Frank also traded cross-picking mandolin licks with Jimmy Goodreau on the Jesse McReynolds tune, Dixie Hoedown, and sang tenor to Jimmy’s lead on the Flatt and Scruggs song, Gonna Settle Down. For good measure, there was a raise-the-hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck a capella version of the Stanley Brothers’ Paul and Silas by Frank, Wayne and Stefan.
Throw in a guitar trio rendition of the fiddle tune Whiskey Before Breakfast, with local picker Avril Smith joining Frank and Lincoln, and a pair of songs that Frank performed with his mother Lorene singing, and the party was almost complete.
The icing on the cake, in addition to the cupcakes that a local baker provided and Frank helped serve, came when all the musicians crowded the stage for a break-crowded finale of Bill Monroe’s Wheel Hoss.
It was, as Frank said – enunciating clearly because he was, after all, in a church – “a good, old-fashioned cluster pluck.”
And it was one heck of a party.