After 17 albums as a leading voice in American roots music, you’d think that Kathy Kallick would be ready to coast on her latest release, a collection of originals titled Cut To The Chase. Instead, she’s upped the ante, working with new collaborators and exploring new forms, as she pushes her songwriting out of a comfort zone to discover various approaches to what she calls “story songs.”
As Kathy notes, “Story songs were ways of spreading the news and recounting important events. I find the fact that something mattered enough to be recounted to be moving and compelling.” Her new songs certainly are compelling -- and moving.
Some of that comes from co-writing three songs with renowned guitarist/singer/songwriter Clive Gregson. As she says, “My initial response to all three melodies created by Clive was shock. They were nothing like what I expected – which is precisely why I wanted to collaborate with him.” Their song, “Franco’s Spain," has some of the lyricism of Joni Mitchell in a tale of adolescent travel and naivety. With “Time Traveller’s Wife," a complex fable of love wraps around a melody line that mimics the intricate puzzle-box nature of the song. And their title track inspired the album's cover art, created by the infamous Erik ("Savage Dragon") Larsen.
Kathy's solo compositions are equally mature and varied. Whether it's the ethereal Greek chorus and resonant harp of "Persephone's Dream" or the duet between pedal steel and dobro echoing the vocal duet on "Once Upon" or telling the story of one man's life inspired by the sound of a train whistle ("Not As Lonesome As Me") or refashioning "Ellie," her Good Ol' Persons classic, as a twangy country song, Cut To the Chase is a clear departure for Kathy Kallick from the bluegrass that has brought her such acclaim.
While she recorded some of these songs with her brilliant and versatile band --Annie Staninec (fiddle), Greg Booth (dobro), Tom Bekeny (mandolin), and Cary Black (acoustic bass) -- Cut to the Chase also reunites Kathy with Good Ol’ Persons John Reischman (mandolin) and Sally Van Meter (Weissenborn), plus California luminaries like pedal steel legend Bobby Black, members of Wake the Dead, guitarist Molly Tuttle, and banjo master Bill Evans. In the end, it’s Kathy Kallick's vibrant and soulful vocals as well as her distinctive and memorable compositions that make Cut To the Chase such a special experience. She combines a patchwork quilt mix of stylistic elements and of subject matter into a satisfying and powerful collection of new songs … which are also stories.