With seven albums to his credit, both on his own and with others, Frank Solivan and his band Dirty Kitchen — Solivan (vocals, mandolin, guitar, violin), Mike Munford (banjo), Chris Luquette (guitar), and Jeremy Middleton (bass) — have ascended to the highest tiers of the bluegrass world. That’s an easy assessment to make given the array of accolades and honors they’ve accumulated thus far — among them, Grammy wins and nominations, two IBMA Instrumental Group of the Year tallies, and the individual awards the musicians have received from the IBMA as well.
Nevertheless, the group may have outdone themselves with their latest Compass Records entry, the aptly-titled Hold On. The performances are, as always, exceptional, but what really stands out is the positivity and purpose that comes through in each and every song. The two opening offerings set the tone for the upbeat attitude that permeates the album as a whole. I’m Already Gone finds Solivan singing, “I’m ready to go/I gotta move on,” while making it clear that he’s ready to put the despair and division of the past several years behind him and move forward courtesy of an uplifted attitude. Likewise, Hold On encourages his listeners to find strength in one another, and to cling fast to friends and family.
The songs that follow take a similar stance. Find My Way shares that determined desire to opt in for optimism whenever possible. Solivan even takes that positive perspective further, musing about a fantasy that finds him moving to the South Seas via the fanciful Sail to Australia, a place where he could live his life in carefree serenity.
For those unable to undertake such an escape, Solivan and company offer other alternatives. The winsome Virginia Is For Lovers share joys that lie closer to home, while the banjo-driven revelry of Lost, the emotion-infused Queen of the Mountain, and the quiet and calm of Modesto, find further reason to rejoice and reflect.
That’s cause enough to hold on for dear life…or, more accurately, for a life well lived.