Guest Blog: Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen

Thanks to MJ Turner of the Oregon Bluegrass Association and bassist for Portland's Barnyard Ruckus for this special guest review of Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen!

Frank Solivan's Dirty Kitchen

by MJ Turner

I first met the members of Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen at the Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley, CA in June of 2010. This was one happening week. The best part about it, at least for me, is that CBA (California Bluegrass Association) hosts a camp 3 days before the festival and the headliners teach the classes, camp with, jam with and hang out with the campers. This particular year as you might guess, Frank and his boys were headliners. By the end of camp, classes, staff/band performances and lots of all night jamming with them, it was abundantly clear that we were being taught by and playing with an immensely talented emerging bluegrass group.

If you have ever had the privilege of seeing Frank live, you have seen that he thoroughly throws all his heart, soul and passion into every song. Now, if you ever have the good fortune of being invited to a personal house concert, where Frank and the boys cook you dinner, schmooze with you while cooking, and then give you an “in your face” concert, do whatever it takes to get there! Frank is known for his gourmet cooking and seems to love preparing as much as performing. I have heard several people ask him if he leaves the kitchens at these house concerts really dirty and is that where he came up with the name. He just looks up and grins saying, naw, I just love getting down and dirty in the kitchen!

The band’s newest member, Dan Booth was my bass workshop instructor last year at camp. He is incredibly talented on several instruments and has a wicked lonesome voice. Dan is an asset to any band in every way; Frank, you got lucky dude! He is also a great teacher that has taught and encouraged me tremendously. His mentoring and support helped me get started in writing a dozen songs this year and helped me to be a valuable member in a really good bluegrass band. If you ever get a chance to take a bass workshop with him, don’t pass it up. The band’s “flat picker” extraordinaire is Lincoln Meyers. Mike Munford, holy smoking moly on the banjo, is just plain awesome.

O.K. So I was asked to actually write a bit about the DK CD. I have literally played mine to death, yet it still lives! As a matter of fact, last year driving to Wintergrass from Vancouver, a blizzard set in and it was a white out for over two hours. I saw 5 wrecks in 5 minutes in Chehalis alone. I happened to be listening to my DK CD when the storm hit. It ended up playing over and over cause I was so freaked out by the weather I was afraid to take my hands off the wheel. I guess it was an omen, cause that night quite unexpectedly, Frank showed up in the OBA (Oregon Bluegrass Association) suite. He had flown in to surprise his father Frank Sr. (a really sweet guy that has mentored and supported many children for years, heading up the “Kids on Bluegrass” in CA.) We all had a great time jamming with him throughout the weekend. The whole CD is a driving force that grabs your bluegrass soul from the first song to the last.

Don’t miss the opportunity to pick up this great CD at the festival and say hello and get to know these guys. This newly planted Pacific NW bluegrass gal is excited to have Dirty Kitchen here in our neck of the woods and proud to call them my friends.




Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen: Tarred & Feathered 

Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen: Paul and Silas

In honor of the upcoming Seattle Folk Festival, we'll be profiling artists on the Hearth Music blog. These profiles will be a great way to get to know the artists and to listen to and discover their music.

Seattle Folk Festival

December 9-11, 2011

Columbia City Theater, Town Hall Seattle, and more!

Featuring Bryan John Appleby, Riley Baugus & Kirk Sutphin, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, Anna & Elizabeth, Laura Love & Orville Johnson, Kevin Murphy of the Moondoggies, Sons of Warren Oates, Youth Rescue Mission, Pharis & Jason Romero, Jackstraw, The Tallboys, Northern Departure, Brother Bear, Sean Flinn & The Royal We, The Canote Brothers, Ben Fisher, Goldfinch, Annie Ford & Gregory Paul, Alina Hardin

blog date 11/10/2011  | comments comments (1)

Tucker Martine on Harry Smith

Portland's Tucker Martine is the storied producer and visionary behind much of today's best indie roots music coming out of the Northwest. He's the man behind The Decemberists 2011 album, The King is Dead (see our previous AST review), which rose to #1 on the national charts, and he's behind a host of other beautiful albums coming out of PDX. His ties to the folk and roots worlds are strong. Though he's worked with artists like R.E.M., Spoon, Mudhoney and My Morning Jacket, he's also produced all of indie-folk shining star Laura Veirs' albums (ok technically they're married, so that helps), as well as the lovely 2011 album from renowned banjo luminary Abigail Washburn. This album married Washburn's wind-swept vocals with Martine's aesthetic for soaring fiddle arrangements and lush instrumentation.

We just found out recently that Martine was actually friends with Harry Smith back in the day, and counts Smith's oeuvre as a large inspiration for his own work. Like Smith, Martine cut his teeth releasing wildly creative, eccentric field recordings. Released by NW label Sublime Frequencies, Bush Taxi Mali is an album of recordings from Martine's 1998 trip to Mali in Western Africa, and Brokenhearted Dragonflies is an album of "insect electronica," hyper-accurate recordings of insects in SE Asia. And like Smith, Martine has continually plumbed the depths of the American roots music for inspiration.

Thanks to the upcoming Tribute To Harry Smith that American Standard Time, Ball of Wax, and Hearth Music are producing at Columbia City Theater (Nov 25), we asked Martine for his memories of hanging out with mad maegi Harry Smith, and how this has influenced his own work. Here's what he had to say:

Tucker Martine on Harry Smith

"I got to know Harry because he came in each day to the coffee shop I worked at in Boulder in 1990 and 91, the Trident Cafe. The owners of the cafe, knowing my interests - suggested that I spend my breaks sitting at Harry's table getting to know him. He was usually wearing a blue and white pinstriped jacket that reminded me of the candyman. He would often pour a bottle of technicolored pills out on to the table and begin to organize them while talking to himself. He was always very happy to talk when I sat as his table, a complete stranger in the beginning. I never studied with Harry - at that time I'm pretty sure he wasn't "teaching" anymore but the Naropa Institute had taken him under their wing and were providing housing for Harry, who wasn't necessarily great at looking after himself. He would usually do all of the talking, I was happy to listen. He talked often of his many buddhist kittens and their rapidly expanding population in his apartment. He said there were even a few Buddhist squirrels on the Naropa campus as well. I wish I had kept the phone message he once left me where he was hoping I would take one of his new Buddhist kittens that he said had successfully completed it's basic Dharma training. My time with Harry mostly preceded my immersion into his life's work. By the time I had fully realized the profundity of his life, he was gone. I was left with fond memories of this warm, eccentric man that I felt drawn to - though didn't understand why until after he had passed away. Harry has inspired me in so many ways, as a field recordist, a guerilla ethnomusicologist and as a lover of things natural, manipulated and surreal."

Inside the Trident Cafe, Boulder CO

Laura Veirs: John Henry Lives (from The Triumphs & Travails of Orphan Mae)
Martine-produced track inspired by Mississippi John Hurt's "Spike Driver Blues" from Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music

NOTE: This article first appeared on American Standard Time, the blog for Greg Vandy's The Roadhouse on KEXP. Check it out:

Join us on November 25 for an all-star Tribute to the Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music, featuring Kevin Murphy (The Moondoggies), RedDog, Kevin Barrans and Friends, Folichon Cajun Band, Pacific Northwest Sacred Harp Singers, Jeremy Burk, Colin J Nelson, Sokai Stilhed, Norman Baker, Ben Fisher, and Virgin of the Birds.

Plus a Harry Smith story from John Cohen, animated by Drew Christie!

Friday, November 25
Columbia City Theater
$10 advance / $15 doors

Free copy of Ball of Wax 26 - a tribute CD to the Anthology of American Folk Music - with entry.


blog date 11/08/2011  | comments comments (0)

Michael Jerome Browne Rebuilds the Blues

I've been impatiently awaiting a new album from Canadian roots music artist Michael Jerome Browne for quite a while now. The last album of his that I have, Michael Jerome Browne & The Twin Rivers String Band, is one of my favorite roots albums, with gorgeous picking and singing with powerful cuts of old-time, blues, honky-tonk and Cajun songs. Having just received his new album, The Road is Dark (out now on Borealis Records), and having listened to it now twice in a row without stopping, this was definitely worth the wait! 

Browne may not be too well known in the States–though he was born in Indiana, Montreal is his adopted home–but he should be. He's one of those rare musicians who have the artistry to transform traditional material that would sound old and tired in another's hands into something so refreshing that it feels like you're hearing the song for the first time. Browne nails this right out the gate with a surprising cover of the 1949 Flatt & Scruggs Mercury Records classic "Doin' My Time." This song was always one of the funkiest, blusiest bluegrass numbers around, so it makes perfect sense when Browne takes it into a deep Delta blues setting. It's a bold move to cast a classic of the bluegrass canon as country blues, but it's a sign of Browne's familiarity and comfort with American roots music. He's done this before on previous albums, effortlessly blending country blues, Appalachian old-time and even some killer Cajun music, and though The Road is Dark is primarily blues-based, the reason the album sounds so rich and effortless is because he's got so much knowledge and appreciation of the roots of the music he plays. On "Death Don't Have No Mercy," Browne takes a Rev. Gary Davis song into darker, eerier territory by channeling the influences of Skip James and Lightnin' Hopkins.

What's even more impressive than these re-imaginings of country blues, are Browne's original songs, which are sprinkled throughout the album. He writes so well and so cleanly, that it's pretty much impossible to tell the original songs from the traditional ones. Though some of the original veer away from the universality of blues lyrics towards more topical matters, this is an asset to the album. His "G20 Rag" is a welcome addition to any political songbook:

"caught the midnight train to Hogton
I went to have my say
'bout the way the rich keep gettin' richer
and the way the poor folks pay

up above the barricade
inside the penthouse suite
twenty future CEOs
raised a glass to the elite

and when the streets were empty
when we're all in jail
our leaders smiled and said 'you see?
democracy can't fail!' "

One of the strongest moments in the album comes right after the "G20 Rag" with Browne's spare and hair-raising song "Sing Low." Accompanied by Rwandan guitarist Mighty Popo and a finger-plucked gourd banjo, Browne's song is ostensibly an homage to Afghan women, drawing a comparison to African-American slaves, who used song to communicate with less fear of reprisal. On any other artist, a heavy-handed blues homage to the cultural complexities of the Afghan nation would be unbearable, but Browne's song is so deftly written and his rendition so subtle and rich, that he manages to convey the intended power to the song.

This is a great album, not only a delight to connoisseurs of American roots music for the way that Michael Jerome Browne reinterprets and subverts old blues paradigms, but also a delight for those just looking for some great acoustic blues. It's eminently listenable from start to finish and will likely enjoy a long shelf-life on repeat in your collection.

Michael Jerome Browne: G20 Rag


blog date 10/29/2011  | comments comments (4)

$5 Irish Trad CDs from Compass Records, NOW til Oct. 31

I just got this email from Compass Records:

They've got select overstock albums on sale for $FIVE DOLLARS from Now until October 31. You still have to pay shipping, I think, but this is pretty great. Since Compass now owns Green Linnet records (the powerhouse Celtic label of the 80s and 90s), they have some SEMINAL albums that I would really recommend you buy if you don't have them already:

Celtic Fiddle Festival: Encore

The original lineup of Kevin Burke (Ireland), Christian Lemaitre (Brittany) and Johnny Cunningham (Scotland). Classic.

Donna Long & Brendan Mulvihill -
The Morning Dew

This album changed my life. Best album of Irish music I HAVE. EVER. HEARD.

Dervish - Live in Palma
(2 Disk)

My favorite Irish band. This is a live 2-CD set, but 2 CDs for 5 bucks is pretty awesome.

Gerry O'Connor - Myriad

Great intro to the Irish tenor banjo tradition. Gerry O'Connor is pretty amazing. A bit poppy, but a great album.

James Keane -
That's The Spirit

Great intro to the Irish button accordion. Raw trad, but masterfully done.

Kate Rusby -
The Girl Who Couldn't Fly

Dead brilliant classic album of British trad. Jeez, Kate Rusby for $5? Yes please!

Kevin Burke - Portland

A true classic, this album of Irish fiddle Kevin Burke and the late accompanist/singer Micheal O Domhnaill is a must-have.

Kevin Burke and Open House - Second Story

Sligo Irish fiddle legend Kevin Burke's made his home in Portland for decades, and his NW band Open House was a wonderful blend of West Coast sounds, from klezmer to old-time to Mark Graham's funny songs and Sandy Silva's inspiring dancing.Pure classic must-have.

Kevin Crawford - In Good Company

Irish fluter Kevin Crawford is known for his work with super-group Lunasa, but this album is straight up trad, and the best you can get. It also features an ultra-rare appearance from fiddler Tony Linnane, one of my most favorites. Oh man, and Frankie Gavin kills it on a track here.

Kornog -

The band that put the eerie melodies of French Brittany on the Celtic map. Classic.

Kris Drever - Black Water

Orkney singer Kris Drever turns out top-flight albums that never seem to make it to the US. This is a rare chance to catch him at his best. Wonderful songs here.

Lunasa - The Kinnitty Sessions

Damn, yo! Lunasa is hands-down one of the best Irish trad bands. They've also been a huge influence on pretty much everyone else. This isn't their best album, per se, but if you don't have it, you need it!

Mick McAuley & Winifred Horan - Serenade

Not strict trad, that's for sure, but no one can fault these two master artists from Solas and how much fun they have on this great album.

Moving Cloud - Moving Cloud AND Foxglove

One of my favorite little-known Irish trad bands. Part of what makes them great is the absolutely stunning fiddling of Maeve Donnelly. She's a back-room brawler of a fiddler, all punch and spit. Love her playing! The other part that makes them great is their old-school dance sound, too rare in today's ultra-slick Irish trad world.

Oisin McAuley - Far From The Hills of Donegal

Dang, I don't have this, but I'm getting it! The Donegal fiddle style is punchier and more rhythmic than any other Irish fiddle style. Great stuff, and not only does this album from Danu's fiddler have great Donegal tunes, but more eclectic fare as well.

Sharon Shannon Albums!!

Dang, they have like every Sharon Shannon album up for $5. She's one of the best living Irish accordionists, but I love her for her gentle, subtle, and briliant Clare style of playing. Sure she's fun when she plays super fast and sings weird, unusual pop songs, but damn when she hits the trad Clare style with Mary Custy on fiddle.... Swooon....

Sharon Shannon/Frankie Gavin/Michael McGoldrick - Tunes

Oh, this album is awesome. This album is so powerful, they should tile the space shuttles with extra copies. Three of the best players ever to play Irish trad, even God himself, ol' Frankie Gavin? YES PLEASE!!!!

Susan McKeown - Lowlands

Though McKeown's a great Irish singer, she can travel pretty far afield. This is one of her best, most understated albums, and it draws primarily from the rich loam of Irish soil. Great stuff.

The Unwanted - Music from the Atlantic Fringe

A totally surprising, unexpected album of delights. Cathy Jordan and Seamie O'Dowd of Dervish join forces with harmonica whiz Rick Epping for an album that explores the links between Ireland and America. Check out our earlier review of this album

NOW, if you have all these albums, or most, already, then maybe you should pick up a new release or two? John Doyle's got a new album out, and Punch Brothers' Noam Pikelny has a pretty awesome solo bluegrass banjo out now too.

Noam Pilkeny: Beat the Devil and Carry a Rail

John Doyle: Shadow and Light

Happy Shopping!!

Your Friends at Hearth Music

blog date 10/28/2011  | comments comments (0)

Hearth Recommends: Bushwick Book Club & The Shining

Halloween is traditionally the kind of holiday just made for club shows. A great time to dress up in crazy outfits and go out dancing and drinking. So no surprise that plenty of that will be happening this weekend. Instead of the usual shenanigans, why not check out this fascinating show on Thursday, October 27 at Columbia City Theater that brings together a host of local roots musicians and songwriters inspired by the immortal novel/film "The Shining." 

Thursday, October 27
The Bushwick Book Club Presents
Original Music Inspired by Stephen King's The Shining

Columbia City Theater
Show at 8pm, Tickets $10

Facebook Event

The Bushwick Book Club Seattle
has been producing shows inspired by  books for a little while now and have built a great following. If you've read the book (or seen the movie... we like movies too!), it's such a great idea to gather together to experience songs written about the work. It's kind of like a songwriting challenge, with very accessible results. The idea comes from a monthly book club/songwriters event in Brooklyn, but local Seattleite Geoff Larsen started a Northwest branch just a year ago. They've already covered material as diverse as Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, and Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends. You can hear some of the results on Bushwick Book Club's Bandcamp page.

I can't wait to hear what the artists have come up with for The Shining. The movie is iconic, of course, mainly for Jack Nicholson's electrifying performance as a father steadily going insane in a deserted mountaintop hotel. I'm a huge fan of The Shining, and I've been to Timberline Lodge outside Portland, where much of the movie exteriors were shot. I'd say that The Shining is the Godfather of horror movies; a perfect creation.

The book was written by Stephen King, and it's easily one of his best. The movie stays pretty close to King's novel (with the exception of some freaky topiary lions that come to life in the book), so if you've haven't read the book, you're probably fine. But read it anyway. It's the perfect thing to read on Halloween!

Here's a sample track from a previous Bushwick Book Club event that paired songwriters with The Time Traveler's Wife. Local singer Vince Martinez nails the task at hand. He's written a song that's loosely inspired by the book, but clearly touches on larger themes. Also, in this case, his song is probably better than the book, from all accounts (I haven't read it, sorry). And for future Bushwick Book Club meetings, I'm putting my vote in for George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones (which I'm reading now and can't put down).

Also, for our folkie friends, Northwest songwriter Wes Weddell has written an excellent ode to a bagpipe, inspired by Shel Silverstein's poem "The Bagpipe Who Didn't Say No." Wes does a great job of bringing Silverstein's rye humor and slightly sad, wistful themes to the song. Masterfully done.


blog date 10/26/2011  | comments comments (0)

Hearth Promotions: Misner & Smith and Kyle Alden

Hearth Music Promotions is going strong this month with two albums of compelling folk and roots music. Plus we're incredibly proud to announce that our artists Pharis & Jason Romero and Ivan Rosenberg & The Foggy Hogtown Boys are at NUMBER ONE and NUMBER THREE on the international Folk-DJ Charts for September. Sandwiched right around Gillian Welch, who's at number two. Yay!!

Pharis & Jason Romero: #1 Top Albums and Songs of Sept 2011 on Folk-DJ Charts, #4 and #5 Top Songs ("Forsaken Love", "Hillbilly Blues"), #3 Top Artists!

Ivan Rosenberg & The Foggy Hogtown Boys: #3 Top Albums and Songs of Sept 2011 on Folk-DJ Charts, #7 Top Artists


October Promotions: 

Misner & Smith's California Folk Roots, Kyle Alden's Vision of Yeats' Poetry

Misner & Smith: Live at the Freight & Salvage

Misner & Smith are a gem of a musical pairing, offering a refreshing take on contemporary folk music. Their lovely harmonies and perfectly blended voices fit within classic American traditions, and their songwriting and storytelling transport the listener to a world of their creation. That is the hallmark of any folk singer worth his or her salt, but Misner & Smith have a truly unique quality in the chemistry of their duets that set them apart from the field. Perhaps it’s a shared appreciation and connection to the musical history of their Bay Area home, or maybe it’s simply fate that brought these two artists together, but whatever the impetus for their musical journey, we are unquestionably the better for it.

The duo’s new album Live at the Freight & Salvage is both a testament to their undeniable talent and the quality of their live performances. Recorded at Berkeley’s famed acoustic venue, the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse, Misner & Smith’s album sounds as good as most studio albums, but with the added energy of a live show. Upon first listen, it’s a pleasant surprise when the audience breaks into applause at the end of “Greyhound Days”, the memorable first track; aside from the album’s title, you would never know everything was recorded live in one take. That’s how tight their harmonies are and how impressive the performance is. The true beauty of Live at the Freight and Salvage is that you can hear for yourself how much Misner & Smith love their audience and how much fun they're having.

Misner & Smith: Live at the Freight & Salvage


Misner & Smith: Madeline (Paradise Cracked)

Misner & Smith: Piccolo Pete



Kyle Alden: Songs from Yeat's Bee-Loud Glade

The jester walked in the garden:
The garden had fallen still;
He bade his soul rise upward
And stand on her window-sill.

Reading these lines from Irish poet W. B. Yeats, Bay Area musician Kyle Alden felt the words leap from the page as a song. He had just been to Ireland on tour with his Irish folk band, the Gas Men, and it seemed like Yeats was following him around. While traveling through County Galway, Alden stopped at the house where Yeats used to live, and at Coole Park, immortalized in the poem “The Wild Swans at Coole.” Back home in San Anselmo, California, Alden pulled down a dusty collection of Yeats’ poems and found a trove of potential songs. It was if they were just waiting for a melody and a voice. Alden picked up his guitar and soon had “The Cap and Bells,” a touching allegory of love between a jester and a queen.

Kyle Alden has deep ties in the Bay Area roots music scene, with feet firmly planted in both folk rock and Irish traditional music. After growing up on the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, Alden turned his rich voice and his talent on the guitar and mandolin towards Irish music as well as his own work. He also has a notable solo career, having brought out three of his own albums in the past six years. After twenty years of collaborating with some of the top talent in the business, Alden called in some favors, and has brought master mandolinist Mike Marshall, former Frank Zappa bassist Scott Thunes, and violinist Athena Tergis, a featured soloist with the Dublin Philharmonic Orchestra, to lend a hand with this tribute to Ireland’s greatest poet.

Songs from the Bee-Loud Glade takes thirteen of Yeats’ poems and sets them to Alden’s signature modern folk style. Irish tradition weaves in and out, but so does the fingerpicking and slide guitar, along with beautiful harmonies and instrumentation. Brought to life with passion and skill, Yeats’ poems don’t feel a day old. Some burst with energy; some drift peacefully—all capture some part of the magic of Ireland and its incomparable bard.


Kyle Alden: Songs from Yeats

Kyle Alden: Brown Penny

Kyle Alden: The Cap and Bells



blog date 10/25/2011  | comments comments (0)