Kathy Kallick Band,
Warmer Kind of Blue
(Copper Creek, 2005)

Over the course of a 30-year recording career, veteran Bay-area musician Kathy Kallick has explored a variety of rooted styles but always manages to find her way back to bluegrass. She's a pro -- an appealing singer, a polished songwriter -- and the only unexpected news would be if she put out something unworthy of her gifts. The news here is that there's no news, except that she's home once more. Well, yes, of course it's pleasurable listening. You thought it could be otherwise?

Kallick composed eight of the 15 songs on Warmer Kind of Blue, fronting a tight, tasteful band comprising Tom Bekeny (mandolin, harmony vocals), Avram Siegel (banjo, lead guitar, harmonies), Amy Stenberg (acoustic bass, harmonies, lead vocals on two cuts) and Brian Wicklund (fiddle, harmonies). On her singer-songwriter recordings Kallick is more lyrically ambitious, but this time, except for the ghostly closer "In the Middle of My Town," the songs focus on the tried-and-true romantic-love themes of most bluegrass composition over the genre's six-decade-or-so history.

The Kathy Kallick Band sound nods to older traditions, but no one would ever think these were a bunch of barely lettered hillbillies. They are, no mistake about it, city singers and pickers. Neither, however, does the band particularly try to emulate Alison Krauss's overtly pop sound. Well, OK, maybe on Kallick's "Still" (not to be confused with the old Bill Anderson country weeper of the same name).

Still (so to speak), Kallick and her band can nail an old-time traditional bluegrass number like Jake Landers' "This Last Request," the sort of disturbingly beautiful death song one ordinarily associates with Ralph Stanley. Further, anybody who is smart enough to revive Don Gibson's irresistible 1960 heartbreaker "Just One Time" already has my vote, and Kallick and company have two of them when they magically conjure up the illusion that this exemplar of the ultraslick Nashville Sound was actually a bluegrass tune at heart.

- Rambles
written by Jerome Clark
published 30 July 2005

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