What becomes a legend most? If that legend in question happens to be Kathy Kallick, suffice it to say it’s a body of work that extends back some 40 years and some two dozen albums that either bear her name or her imprint. Then there’s her multitude of awards, including a Grammy, a pair of IBMA nods, and the Lifetime Membership honors she accrued from the California Bluegrass Association. It all adds up to an impressive body of work that has no equal in the modern bluegrass realms and shows no sign of stopping.
These days, Kallick is tied to a band that bears her name, and with a talented group of colleagues — each boasting an impressive resume all their own — she’s not found the ideal symmetry. On the group’s new album Horrible World, their sixth effort so far, they effectively combine vintage offerings from the likes of Bill Monroe and the Carter Family with Kallick’s own originals. Naturally, certain songs are readily familiar — the traditional Cotton-Eyed Joe and Solid Gone in particular — but even the newer songs such as the rousing Ride Away, a tender (It’s a) Horrible World and the perfectly precise Pockets Full of Rain provide a quick connection. Melody and musicianship are given equal prominence, and in the baker’s dozen offered here, there’s not a single selection that doesn’t stand out all on its own.
To her credit, Kallick doesn’t attempt to dominate the proceedings. The Kathy Kallick Band is just that — a band, with Kallick as its leader but not the sole individual responsible for its sound or style. Annie Staninec provides the prerequisite amount of fiddle finesse. Greg Booth shares his varied skills on dobro and banjo. Tom Bekeny plays mandolin and contributes the original instrumental Edale, while Cary Black anchors it all on acoustic bass. Kallick’s vocals and guitar steer the proceedings, but it’s apparent this is a group effort in every regard. The result — Horrible World — is clearly really anything other than what the title implies.