A frequently discussed issue in the world of bluegrass is the lack of women who have made their mark on the genre over the years. While such award winners as Kristen Scott Benson, Dale Ann Bradley, and Rhonda Vincent have all proven their talents time and time again, and projects like the Daughters of Bluegrass albums have begun to shine a brighter light on women’s contributions, bluegrass music is still largely dominated by men, with relatively few women finding success leading their own bands. San Francisco-based Kathy Kallick is one lesser-known artist who certainly breaks that mold.
Kallick, who founded her first band in 1975, recently released her 17th album. Time, out now on Live Oak Records, is a mixture of originals and time-honored tunes, rendered in an enjoyable, mostly traditional style. Kallick wrote four of the album’s fourteen songs, including the title track, a melodic, country-influenced piece which offers musings on the passage of time. The singer may no longer be young, but “the beauty of an oak stands up against the rose.” Fare Thee Well has a pleasing, old-time country feel, fitting for Kallick’s conception of the song as a new tune for the Carter Family to record. Lulu and Jack is a sweet Old West tale which shares the story of a couple whose love endures the husband’s pioneering spirit.
While Kallick’s originals have an old-time sound to them, several other tunes reflect the band’s bluegrass influences. Their version of Dark Hollow has nice banjo and fiddle work throughout, and an additional verse pulled from the Clarence Ashley tune Dark Holler Blues which isn’t usually included in bluegrass recordings of this song, but fits well. Bassist Dan Booth (now with Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen) takes the lead on an excellent version of the Delmore Brothers’ I’m Lonesome Without You, complete with Cajun fiddle and solid instrumental solos. Booth’s lead vocals can also be found on Thinkin’ of You, a straightforward ‘old homeplace’ tune written and originally recorded by early California bluegrass duo Vern and Ray. The Bill Monroe Gospel number Lord Protect My Soul is one of the album’s standout tracks, with a great traditional sound and nice four-part harmony.
Several band members get to show off their musical talent on the album’s instrumentals. Old Red Mandolin, an original by mandolin player Tom Bekeny is an uptempo tribute to Frank Wakefield, while dobro and banjo player Greg Booth’s Shuckin’ the Acorns features an interesting dobro/fiddle opening. Fans of straight-ahead, traditional style instrumentals will enjoy Annie Staninec’s fiddling on North Carolina Breakdown.
For more information on the Kathy Kallick Band, visit the group’s website at www.kathykallick.com, where audio samples from Time are available. The album can be purchased from CDBaby, Amazon, and County Sales.