Live Oak Records

   The saying “Cut to the chase”—meaning “Get to the important thing right now”—goes back to the early days of motion pictures. Movie makers quickly learned that the public didn’t want to sit through lengthy encounters or explanatory titles. Whether it was a scrambling Keystone Cops laugh riot or a thrilling cowboy pursuit, audiences wanted the film to “cut to the chase.” It’s a fitting title for California-based singer/songwriter/guitarist Kathy Kallick’s new album. Travel—including a chase or two—is a predominate theme. And each of the 13 original songs here (ten written solely by Kallick, three in collaboration with Clive Gregson) gets right to the important things: love, longings, desires, and choices in life choices, both good and bad.

The opening track, the high-lonesome “Tryin’ So Hard To Get To You,” finds the singer (spoiler alert) struggling in an almost pathetically funny attempt to join her beloved while gradually realizing that the frustrating delays are a blessing because the relationship is actually dysfunctional, unhappy, and pointless. The pursuit in the title-track “Cut To The Chase” takes place mostly within the close confines of a bar or club, but the journey is equally intense and revealing. The deceptively pretty waltz-time “The Night The Boat Capsized” launches a symbolic but wistful ocean voyage. Other titles transport the listener, in spirit at least, to ancient Greece (“Persephone’s Dream”), a twentieth century European dictatorship (“Franco’s Spain”), and maybe wryly to other dimensions (“The Time Traveler’s Wife”).

Kallick has a fine and versatile voice here: lilting, ornamented, or gutsy as the material requires. The regular members of her band (Annie Staninec, fiddle; Greg Booth, mandolin; Tom Bekeny, mandolin; Cary Black, acoustic bass) do their usual excellent job on several tracks. The album also features Kallick’s studio reunions with two members of the well-recalled Good Ol’ Persons band, John Reischman (mandolin) and Sally Van Meter (Weissenborn slide guitar). Banjoist Bill Evans and a host of other fine musicians are also here, fine fellow travelers all.

This is not exactly my-old-mountain-home or little-log-cabin-in-the-lane bluegrass song territory, and it’s not casually strolled. But Kallick’s fans will be hugely rewarded by her  thoughtful and often powerful lyrics and music. You might be lulled at first by the easy country sway of “Same Ol’ Song” and then get hit by what that same old song really means. The concluding number, “Ellie,” is especially poignant because of its truths on how a life’s deceptions start in childhood and can grow from very loving intentions. If the album is a bit of a departure for this accomplished performer, it’s a worthwhile journey and Kallick cuts to the chase on every cut. (www.kathykallick.com)RDS

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