Since Frank Solivan left the cold climes of Alaska for the bluegrass hotbed of Washington, D.C., he’s built a reputation as a monster mandolinist — and become a major festival attraction with his band, Dirty Kitchen. Solivan and banjoist Mike Munford (2013 IBMA Banjo Player of the Year), guitarist Chris Luquette (IBMA Instrumentalist of the Year Momentum Award winner) and doghouse bassist Dan Booth simmer a bluegrass/newgrass stew from instrumental, vocal and songwriting skills so hot, they also earned 2012 and 2013 Best Bluegrass Band honors from the Washington Area Music Association. It flavors every note of their new album, On the Edge, which Engine 145 dubbed, “a fine sophomore release from one of the most exciting bands in bluegrass today.”
At the highest levels of acoustic musicianship exists a mystery — the mystery of tone, taste and timing… It can best be illustrated by giving a good musician a good instrument and asking him to briefly strum, pick, bow, — whatever is required to produce the best sound. Then, by way of comparison, hand that very same instrument to a GREAT musician and ask for the same.
It is a phenomenon that manifests itself every time that Frank Solivan picks up a mandolin, guitar or violin. What you see may be the same pick or bow, on the same strings, on the same fretboard that the good player demonstrated, but the sound… Ah… there’s the difference!
In Frank’s hands, these instruments take on a life of their own. You hear power. You hear volume. You hear crispness, clarity, timing and taste. All combined with passion and drive. A physicist might slow it down to analyze the strum against string — but he wouldn’t find the answer. For that, you have to know Frank Solivan, a man who has a powerful life force that’s as raw, natural and pure as the place he spend much of his youth, Alaska. Frank is a hunter, a fisherman, a gourmet chef, a beautiful singer, a poet and songwriter of tasteful ballads and of blazing instrumentals. A man of sturdy build who is known to holler out out a powerful, “Son!” whether it be in response to a hot solo, or some hot sauce he concocted in kitchen. It’s as if all these things for him are an affirmation of life. An awareness that all five senses are humming along on overdrive. That life is short and all these gifts are not to be wasted.
Those who are privileged enough to be around it, are richer for it. Musicians, especially, in his presence step up their game, but I suppose you could say the same about gourmands, or fishermen. People sense that life force around Frank and they want a piece of it.
The physicist curious about the mysteries of tone, timing and taste would do well to spend some time around Frank. He would find no definition, no explanation of how it happens but he would see it right there. And you should, too.
Mike is one of the hidden treasures of the five string banjo world. Mike grew up in the sixties and seventies in the bluegrass hotbed of Baltimore and D.C. and assimilated just about everything that all the great players in that area could offer. Then he took off on his own. How best to describe him? Imagine this conversation among banjo players huddled around a fire at some pickin’ party or festival.
“How did J.D. do that lick? ”
“I dunno, but Munford’s over there, ask him.”
“I just got a “37 Granada but it ain’t sounding like it should…”
“Have you taken it to Munford? Best set-up guy around.”
“Damn! Why can’t I get that tone?”
“I dunno… go watch Munford, He’s right over there.”
Now well past forty years old — the age at which, they say, life begins, Mike Munford retains a child like enthusiasm and curiosity for all things banjo. He has no qualms about driving hours through rush hour traffic to go see J.D. Crowe play at some obscure club… then rave about the performance even though he might have seen it or heard it dozens, maybe hundreds or times. He has imbibed everything that J.D., or Earl, or Bela, has thrown his way — and can mimic those players with uncanny accuracy, but has found his own style, too.
It can best be described as hard-driving melodic… but such a description diminishes what’s actually going on. When Mike Munford plays you hear all things that great banjo player strive to achieve. Power, drive, impeccable timing, exquisite tone and jaw-dropping technique.
Mike is also, indeed, about the finest set-up or fret job guy around, and is a walking encyclopedia of banjo trivia. He is an inspiration to countless players in the mid – Atlantic region.
Most of the country hasn’t really seen all that much of Mike’s playing. He, throughout most of his career, has preferred the comforts of home to the road. It is testament to Frank Solivan’s powers of persuasion ( i.e. talent) that Mike is hitting the road as a part of this fine ensemble.
Hailing from the Chugach mountains near Anchorage, Alaska, Danny Booth grew up in a thriving bluegrass and country music family and community. His first “gig” was at age 12 with Doug Dillard and Ginger Boatwright at a bluegrass camp concert. Heavily influenced by his father Greg, a master of pedal steel, dobro and banjo, Danny soon graduated to join his dad in the seminal Alaskan bluegrass band, Rank Strangers. There he met an 18 year old fiddler/mandolinist named Frank Solivan. To most people, growing up in Alaska doesn’t suggest a strong musical background, but they haven’t heard Dan or Frank!
Danny’s own style and sound has been influenced by some of the greatest bassists of acoustic music: Todd Phillips, Mike Bub, Mark Shatz, Barry Bales, Byron House and Edgar Meyer. His supportive bass lines are laden with excellent timing, feel, powerful tone and fluid technique. Danny recalls, “My dad was never shy about telling me when something didn’t work… that gave me the perfectionist attitude I have today.”
In addition to Danny’s impeccable bass playing, he is a remarkable singer. He’s known for his powerful lead and seamlessly blended harmony vocals. “Working with Kathy Kallick taught me a lot about blending harmonies. Combining voices is like rubbing two sticks together – when done correctly it can catch on fire!”
Danny has toured with the Kathy Kallick Band, Spring Creek, Bearfoot, and even performed with one and only Dr. Ralph Stanley. He is the newest member of Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen and brings his own musical voice and vision to this rising band. Stand by to be blown away when Danny Booth gets up to the mic.
Chris is one of the hardest working musicians from the Seattle music scene. You’d be hard pressed to find another 22 year old seamlessly switching from International Music to Jazz and from Rock to Bluegrass so comfortably. He has even studied Brazilian Jazz with Seattle based Brazil music legend, Jovino Santos Neto. Chris’ musicianship reflects the multitude of musical influences he turns to for inspiration. His acoustic guitar playing really stands out, but this virtuosic, multi-instrumentalist is equally at home playing mandolin, drums, bass, electric guitar, banjo, and Greek bouzouki! In addition, Chris was a founding member of Seattle based, Northern Departure, and has found himself sitting in with Jerry Douglas, Emmylou Harris, Rob Ickes and many others. Don’t miss an opportunity to hear him shred his Martin guitar in half!