As music festivals begin to return this summer, let’s take a look at one of the favorites of the bluegrass circuit: Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen.
About that band name. Solivan is a gourmet chef, and he often prepared meals for friends and — on occasion — for the fans who came to his shows. Thus the “dirty kitchen” moniker (although he makes the point that he always cooks in clean kitchens).
Solivan is from California and spent time in Alaska as the first chair violin in the University of Alaska orchestra. From there he joined the Navy’s service band, Country Current, where he played electric guitar in their country outfit and mandolin and fiddle in the bluegrass unit. After that gig, Solivan formed his current band, which has won numerous awards and world-wide acclaim.
Having heard this band live three or four times, I can attest to the fact that their instrumental chops are superb. Solivan handles the lead vocals, mandolin, and fiddle. IBMA 2013 Banjo Player of the year Mike Munford plays fluid, other-worldly melodies on the five-string. IBMA 2013 Momentum Award winner Chris Luquette holds down the guitar chair, moving between traditional flatpicking and jazzier stylings. Jeremy Middleton provides the foundation for the band on the bass.
To showcase those instrumental chops, we’ll begin with M80, a tune Munford named for a firecracker after he spent a July 4th night on the national mall. While there are live examples on YouTube, I like the original from the On the Edge album because of the stellar dobro work Rob Ickes brings to the tune.
On the Edge was the breakthrough album for the Dirty Kitchen band, and it was their first on Compass Records. The album begins with some classic bluegrass with I Fell Short (on Standing Tall). Check out the nice interplay halfway through between Solivan and Munford.
But that classic bluegrass sound soon takes a diversion into 1960s rock…with the Box Tops!
If the Box Tops don’t rock you, how about some Roy Orbison…with a little Day Tripper thrown in for good measure. Munford’s break on Pretty Woman, from the Family, Friends, and Heroes album, is a gem.
The follow-up album to On the Edge was Cold Spell, which includes the tongue twister She Said She Will. It features great breaks by Luquette and Munford.
In a nice juxtaposition of desires, the music video for Crave, the first tune from 2019’s If You Can’t Stand the Heat, was filmed amidst the beautiful instruments of Carter Vintage Guitars in Nashville. Yes, so many gorgeous instruments…so little money.
And if you think The Letter was a one-off, well…you clearly haven’t heard the bluegrass version of Whipping Post!
(Yes, yes…I know that you can’t do Whipping Post better than the Allman Brothers Band…whether with Duane and Dickey or Derek and Warren. So don’t troll me. The solo by Derek Trucks is insane!)
Let’s end this Soundtrack where we began, with a great Mike Munford instrumental, Line Drive.
Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen are playing in the Maryland area (and around the country) this summer, so catch them — or your favorite band — and enjoy some live music!
More to come…
Images of Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen by DJB