Contemporary bluegrass comes in many varieties. You've got neo-trad bands such as Del McCoury or Open Road, Nash-Vegas acts such as Rhonda Vincent or The Grascals, new-grass bands such as John Cowan and Sam Bush, Jam/rock/bluegrass bands like Drew Emmitt/Nershi band or Avett Brothers, and grass/jazz groups including David Grisman's Quintet, Crooked Still, and Psychograss. Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen don't quite fit into these bluegrass categories. They combine the energy of hardcore traditional band with a more modern and contemporary folk-influenced sound.
Both guitarist Lincoln Meyers and banjo player Mike Munford have clean lyrical styles that augment Frank Solivan's incisive mandolin. Many of the tunes, such as "Together We'll Fly," feature three part instrumental breaks that require absolute precision and melodic efficacy. On the original instrumental "Line Drive," Solivan, Munford, and Meyers all take multiple solos. Every solo is a little gem. Unlike young players who try to dazzle with tirades of triplets, the members of Dirty Kitchen all contribute clean melodic lines instead of a flurry of notes.
Dirty Kitchen's vocals and harmonies are nearly as impressive as their instrumental chops. While not quite as drop-dead perfect as, say, Doyle Lawson's Quicksilver or the original Country Gentlemen, Dirty Kitchen's singing is clearly not subservient to their picking. Solivan's voice would be sufficiently mellifluous to at least get him into the prelims on American Idol.
With seven originals among the twelve songs on the CD, Solivan unveils his other skill, songwriting. "Tarred and Feathered" with its combination of blue, modal, and purposeful rhythm, makes for an instant classic. On "Same Old Love" which he co-wrote with Charles Tyson, they've successfully combined equal parts of country toe-stepper and folkie ballad.