Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen are true masters of progressive bluegrass. They have built a reputation as one of the most exciting bands on the scene, delivering electrifying live performances and drawing new listeners to the genre through their wide-open approach to the music. Perhaps their expansive vision of bluegrass shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, front man and Alaskan Frank Solivan is a bona fide Renaissance man. He has worn a lot of hats in a career that has included tenure in the US Navy band and work as leather craftsman, master cook (who picked up recipes from his Filipino grandfather) and pick maker. He even did a stint blowing up mountains in Alaska.
Powered by Solivan’s bold and dynamic vocals and driven by the band’s virtuosic instrumental chops, the group has earned widespread critical acclaim as well as Grammy nominations for their most recent two albums. They have also received multiple International Bluegrass Music Association awards and nominations, both collectively and individually, including 2 wins for IBMA Instrumental Group of the Year.
Frank and company bring it up a notch on their newest release HOLD ON. Triple-threat Solivan shines as a vocalist and mandolinist and shows his stuff as a songwriter on the album’s 11 tracks, 6 of which were written or co-written by Solivan himself. There’s an overarching theme of optimism that runs through the album and a spirit of hope for better days ahead. Solivan explains: “I was going through the hardest time of my life leading up to the pandemic. And then the world stopped! Exploring some of the subject matter and song ideas that came out of those difficult times led me to these songs. Songs that helped bring me out of a seemingly hopeless situation. Finding light where there was darkness and trying to relay some of my journey of figuring out how to ‘hold on’. My hope is that the listener will be able to relate and will have these songs to help them get through difficult times.”
Together with bandmates banjo master Mike Munford, guitarist Chris Luquette and bassist Jeremy Middleton, the band dazzles on covers including Newgrass Revival’s, “Sail to Australia” (featuring NGR’s bassist John Cowan on harmony vocals), Buzz Busby’s “Lost,” and a crafty cover of Orleans’ “Sails,” bringing their instrumental savvy and deep groove to each track. But the real heart of the album is the original material Solivan contributes here, including several outstanding new songs destined to take their place in the bluegrass canon.
The upbeat “I’m Already Gone” and “Hold On” which open the album are both ready-made bluegrass classics, the later written by Solivan in about 15 minutes right before the recording session. “Goodbye, Goodbye,” co-written by Solivan and his cousin singer/songwriter Megan McCormick, has one of the catchiest choruses you’ll hear in any kind of music, and the achingly beautiful “Modesto,” also co-written by Megan McCormick, is a gorgeous tip of the hat to the town where Solivan was born. The album also features a re-record of the Solivan-penned instrumental dazzler “Scorchin’ the Gravy,” the first tune the band ever played together. This version, recorded live with no overdubs, leaves little doubt why the quartet is a multiple IBMA Instrumental Award winner.
Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen’s reputation as one of the most dazzling bands on the bluegrass scene is even more firmly established with the release of HOLD ON. Old and new fans alike will delight as the band plants another flag in their journey of musical exploration, continuing their seemingly endless upward trajectory, and raising the bar for bluegrass in the process.