Kathy Kallick Band’s new bluegrass album looks back
By Elly Schmidt-Hopper
Bay Area News Group
Nov. 15, 2012
OAKLAND — Kathy Kallick, leader of the eponymous Kathy Kallick Band, has been playing bluegrass in the Bay Area since 1975. Her band just released a new album called “Time,” and many of the songs reflect on Kallick’s life and experiences during decades in the music business.
Over the years, Kallick has written more than 100 original songs and released 17 albums, but her voice still bubbles with excitement when she talks about the music. It’s as if the young woman from Chicago, who moved to San Francisco and was swept away by the bluegrass scene, is just right below the surface.
Kallick remembers the first time she saw a bluegrass band play live and how forceful the impact was on her.
“Bluegrass was this big visceral exciting ensemble thing, it was this powerful thing that came off the stage at you,” Kallick said. “And the songs were interesting and really compelling, you know, they were story songs. And the singing I loved. The singing was just so full of feeling and really soulful.”
Kallick started her first band in 1975 and began writing her own songs, a taboo in bluegrass. Many musicians at the time felt that straying from traditional lyrics and musical interpretations was an unnecessary departure from the standard set by Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass. It was especially controversial for a woman.
It has been Kallick’s goal to put women’s voices and experiences in music traditionally sung and written by men.
This female perspective can even be subversive, she says. One of her songs, “Walkin’ in My Shoes,” was inspired by a friend’s struggles with domestic violence. The song spent a year at the top of the national bluegrass charts, and even old-school DJs related to the feminist message without quite realizing it.
A lot has changed in the industry in the past three decades, and “Time” attempts to chart that progression. Kallick wrote the song “Fare Thee Well” as a sweet way to end a set, but says that the result for many listeners is unintentionally sad. She sings in a keening voice; “Think on the best of all our times/The gladdest moments we shared/ Hold dear the favorite funny lines/The boldest truths we may have bared.”
The title track, also called “Time,” has a gritty fiddle intro that Kallick wrote for her 26-year-old fiddle player, Annie Staninec. Kallick says the song is about the interesting feeling of aging, and how every stage of her life is still relevant today. The song ends: “When all is said and done there’s just no way to run from time, time, time.”
The Kathy Kallick Band, in its current form, has Tom Bekeny on the mandolin, Greg Booth on the dobro, Sharon Gilchrist on the bass (Dan Booth is on the album) and Staninec on the fiddle. Kallick and Bekeny have been playing together since 1996, but she says that even someone new to the band can play based on shared knowledge.
“The great thing about bluegrass is that you come together, people that have never met, and there’s this common vocabulary of songs, so you can play instantly,” Kallick said. “And that’s what’s happened. You can say ‘Well what do you know, what do you know?’ and you can play.”
Time from Kathy Kallick Band this Fall
April 2, 2012 - BLUEGRASS TODAY
California bluegrass singer/songwriter Kathy Kallick is finishing work on a new recording with her eponymous touring band, set for a Fall 2012 release on Live Oak Records.
This project will be entitled Time, and features Kallick on guitar and vocals, with Annie Staninec on fiddle, banjo and vocals, Tom Bekeny on mandolin and vocals, Greg Booth on banjo and resonator guitar, and Dan Booth on bass and vocals.
We asked Kathy to share a few words about the songs she has chosen for Time, and she graciously obliged.
“We’ve got a tasty mix of new originals and interesting covers.
The title song is one I wrote, for me to sing with Annie. It’s inspired by the experience of playing music with this young woman who’s the same age as my daughter, and the tune is very informed by her fiddling.
The album took on a bit of a ‘time’ theme, with old next to new, some nods to early influences, and closing with the beautiful old song Long Time Travelling Here Below.
I have a recording of my mother singing this in 1966, and it’s so beautiful and haunting to me. My mom was known for her phrasing, and the deep emotion in her singing. I wanted to try and capture a bit of that and revisit the song with Annie, and see what we could find to say that was new and about us. This gave Annie a chance to debut her frailing banjo playing and to sing lead. I found the kind of harmony I sang with my mother when I first started out – not a clear part, but more entwined.
Tom Bekeny, who’s been playing in this band with me since 1996, brought his homage to Frank Wakefield, The Old Red Mandolin, and Greg Booth introduces his hot new tune, Shuckin’ The Acorns, an instant dobro hit.
Dan Booth takes the lead on a song that comes from the repertoire of Vern and Ray, Thinkin’ Of Home. Those guys were a big influence on me, and Tom, and anybody who started out in bluegrass in Northern California in the 1970s and ’80s, when we had the chance to see and hear them live. The sound of those guys is new to Dan, but he loved it, and played some tribute shows with me and Laurie Lewis, and this song resonated for him. Dan’s always homesick and lonesome!
That Dan Booth loves a lonesome song and he found a beautiful Delmore Brothers song, and moved it into 3/4 time to make it even more lonesome! Lonesome Without You features his soulful and gorgeous singing. With twin fiddles, ooh!
Greg’s back and forth on the banjo and dobro, sometimes in the same song, always with so much to say that’s worth hearing. Annie’s fiddling is more astounding and right on every minute, and she rips through the North Carolina Breakdown.
A couple of Gospels, a couple of story songs, a bluegrass classic, an old time edge, and, voila, a new KKB CD!”
Kallick also raved about her bandmates and what they bring to the table.
“I just love this band, and the variety and versatility available to us – everybody sings, so we can move the harmony stacks around, and the multi-instrumentalists give us so many options. We all love traditional bluegrass, but venture outside the lines quite freely.
I love the vaaaast age differences, and the interplay between our generations, and the way that all disappears when we start to play music as contemporaries and peers. Music is a language that extends outside the boundaries of age, experience, and culture, and we continue to love this conversation!”