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Kathy Kallick

Cut to the Chase – 2014 (Live Oak)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by Kathy Kallick

Though primarily known for bluegrass, largely through her work with The Good Ol' Persons, a band she founded in the 1970s with longtime friend and collaborator Laurie Lewis, Kathy Kallick has shown a tendency on her solo albums over the years to step outside the bluegrass idiom and mix things up a little bit - some jazz here, a little swing there, a dash of country now and then, and whatever else just seems to make it all work. This is a woman, after all, who brought us "Use A Napkin, Not Your Mom."

The 13 tracks comprise, by design, a sampler of "story" songs, 10 written by Kallick on her own and the rest in collaboration with guitarist Clive Gregson. One treat sure to please her fans from the Good Ol' Persons days is a reprise of "Ellie," about a girl-gone-wrong who can't bring herself to tell her mother the truth until it's too late. "Same Old Song" is about how often relationships seem to begin with the same stale lines, but turns those clichés into the heart of the song. The title track, one of the songs written with Gregson, will strike a chord with every woman who's ever told her date - or wanted to tell him - "get the hell away from me."

A striking feature of the production and arrangements is the frequent pairing of Dobro (by Greg Booth, a member of Kallick's band) and pedal steel guitar (by Bobby Black) on tracks like "Once Upon." The two instruments aren't often combined (and some of us grumble that the pedal steel has almost vanished from modern country music), but the result is reminiscent of some of the pop/country material that Linda Ronstadt, for example, was putting out in the 1970s. The album as a whole has a nice, varied sound to it, and Kallick continues to be among the most distinctive and listenable singers around.