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CD REVIEW: The Kickin Grass Band - The Kickin Grass Band
By Chip Withrow - 12/06/2008 - 12:27 PM EST

Artist: Band: Kickin Grass Band
Album: The Kickin Grass Band
Label: Superfan Records
Website: http://www.kickingrass.com
Genre: Bluegrass/Folk
Sounds Like: Alison Krauss, Lucinda Williams, DelMcCoury
Production/Musicianship Grade: 10/10
Commercial Value: 9/10
Overall Talent Level: 10/10
Songwriting Skills: 10/10
Performance Skill: 10/10
Best Songs: Hometown, Run Away, Cherokee Shuffle, Ghost of Nathaniel Carter
CD Review: It’s been three years since I reviewed the Kickin Grass Band’s On the Short Rows. I loved that one, and the group’s new self-titled disc arrived at a serendipitous time: I have just taken up banjo, and I’m hungry for all the bluegrass I can hear.

So I was immediately thrilled when “Hometown” blasted out of the speakers with a big dose of Ben Walters’ banjo. It’s a powerful song, driving and sing-alongable. “Cold Frosty Window” follows, and it’s a charming, loping number with bittersweet, pretty harmonies. The cover of Roger Miller’s “Chug A Lug” is fun and funny.

Then comes a beautiful highlight, “Run Away.” I pointed out in my review of Short Rows that Lynda Wittig Dawson is a fine songwriter, and “Run Away” and “Hometown” are two of her best. “Run Away” is just about perfect – a couple of guitars, maybe a trace of mandolin, and Wittig Dawson’s crystalline voice with some accompanying harmonies.

“Rambling Man” is a rollicking number, anchored by Walters’ rolling banjo and Patrick Walsh’s upright bass. Fiddler Matt Hooper and mandolinist Jamie Dawson step out for solos in true bluegrass ensemble style. Next, Hooper’s mournful fiddle is all over the old-timey folk blues of “Lay Him In The Ground.”

Even though the price of gas in down to about $1.75 here in southwest Florida as I write this, I’m sadly sure the bouncy, syncopated “Gasoline Blues” will be timely again. And the instrumental “Cherokee Shuffle” is worth mentioning because I’m always amazed by speedy picking.

Wittig Dawson’s lyrics to “The Ghost of Nathaniel Carter” read like poetic prose, stark and spare. And the song in brilliant. “Time Passes (Anniversary Waltz)” closes this fine album with a tender, personal touch.

The Kickin Grass Band is more than straight-up bluegrass, although there is plenty of that here. It’s lyrical folk music well worth seeking out.


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