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It’s a bit of an over-simplification to pigeonhole Frank Solivan and his band as the early twenty-first century answer to the Newgrass Revival. But I think the comparison is apt, just as I think the presence of two former Newgrassers, John Cowan and Sam Bush, is not just a coincidence.
“Say It Isn’t So,” the tour de force, nearly six-minute long opening cut on Cold Spell, is a prime example of how this dynamic power quartet (Frank Solivan on vocals, mandolin, mandola, violin and guitar; Danny Booth on vocals and bass; Chris Luquette on guitar and harmony vocals; veteran Mike Munford on banjo) keeps one foot in mainstream bluegrass while making more progressive forays with adventurous pop-flavored melodies and vocals and jazzy instrumental syncopation. The finesse with which they pull this off is impressive indeed. The Alaska-born Solivan, besides being a world-class singer (listen to him and John Cowan harmonize so beautifully on “Say It Isn’t So” and “No Life In This Town”) is an accomplished mandolin player. He also wrote or co-wrote four of the soulful tunes here, including the lovelorn title tune “Betrayal” and “Chief Taghkanic.”
Throughout these ten cuts, the band gets able assists from guests Cowan, Bush, Rob Ickes, Megan McCormick, and Leon Alexander. A press release accompanying this CD trumpets Solivan and his band as the “next big thing on the bluegrass circuits.” That’s a bold stroke of self-promotion to be sure, but listening to Cold Spell, it’s hard not to agree. (Compass Records, 916 19th Ave. S., Nashville, TN 37121, www.compassrecords.com.)BA