Review: Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen

Frank Solivan & Dirty KitchenI’ve been a fan of Frank Solivan II since I first heard him perform with the United States Navy band, Country Current. Frank has since left the Navy and formed his own band bearing his name, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen. Today marks the release of  the band’s self-titled debut album. Frank has previously released two solo CDs, but this is the first band recording to be released.

The CD contains 12 tracks, 5 written by Frank. From the first note it’s obvious this is a group of accomplished musicians playing music they love. Drifting Apart hits you full force with no warning. The music is driving and forceful and the vocals are anything but drifting, they are as tight as one could hope to hear. You can feel the energy and excitement. This is contemporary bluegrass with it’s roots firmly planted in tradition.

You’ll have to be on your toes and paying attention to grasp all the intricacies of what’s happening. For example, the second track is an innovative version of John Stewart’s folk tune, July You’re A Woman. The cut begins with a Backwaters feel, then turns into a strait up bluegrass tune, with Munford’s melodic banjo driving in a way you might not have expected. Solivan’s mandolin solo is clean, full of triplets, and leads smoothly into Meyers’s flawless guitar solo. The fiddle takes you back into the lyrics, leading to the closing banjo solo, where if you listen closely you’ll smile as you here strains of Blackberry Blossom incorporated seamlessly, and appropriately, into Munford’s melodic interpretation of this 60’s folk tune.

Tarred and Feathered is sure to be favorite. From special guest John Cowan’s tenor vocals, to Lincoln Meyer’s driving rhythm guitar, this song is one of those medium tempo tunes that just throbs with bluegrass attitude.

Left Out In The Cold, another Solivan original, offers a heartfelt insider’s view of the trials faced by those who live their lives on the street without a home.

I could go on, there’s even an a cappella gospel number to close the CD, but you get the idea. The press release described this as “an album that offers up a smorgasbord of musical sounds.” Judging by the breadth of styles represented on this CD I’d say that’s an accurate, but inadequate description. Inadequate, because it says nothing of the coherent relationship that exists between these 12 tunes. They differ stylistically enough to warrant such a description, but they all work together flawlessly to tell one metanarrative: Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen can’t be put in a box.

Make no mistake, these guys are a bluegrass band, but they teach us here that bluegrass is more of an attitude that it is a specific musical formula. They have material here that your average bluegrass band wouldn’t be able to make you believe. In the liner notes Frank makes the point more than once that with these disparate tunes they took each one and “spread it out on the floor and bluegrassed all over it.” That’s a line I plan to remember and quote in the future!

Solivan is a singer of power and passion and a writer whose articulate songs go straight to the heart. A multi-instrumentalist who combines the pure, hard drive of classic bluegrass with twenty-first century sophistication, Solivan and company are increasingly in demand at festivals and venues across the country.

He is joined by Baltimore/D.C. five string-banjo master Mike Munford, Stefan Custodi as the heartbeat of Dirty Kitchen on upright bass, and flatpick guitar wizard Lincoln Meyers. Solivan finds an outlet that suits his talents to a T, combining his unique and varied experience in the middle of three top-notch musicians who lift each other up and let each person’s talents shine through in the most impressive of ways.

If you get the chance, you’ll want to try to catch Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen at a House Concert. Not only are these intimate settings great for listening to music, but in addition to being a gifted musician, Frank is also a gourmet cook and treats the evening’s guests to a pre-show feast. This unique combination of great food and great music is called The Dirty Kitchen Experience: Dinner with the Band. How better to bring people together than music and food? And Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen is the group to do just that.

In addition to everything I’ve said about the music, if my 2 year old is any kind of authority, this music is also very danceable!

Visit to hear two streaming tracks from the CD, grab a free download of another track, and check their tour schedule.