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Saturday, December 20, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 28.0° F  Light Snow Fog/Mist
The Daily
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Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen top themselves with adventurous new record Cold Spell
Red-hot bluegrass
Thriving on order within chaos.
Credit:Joe Shymanski

"T'ain't no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones." So say the lyrics of a song by Tom Waits and William Burroughs. The opening licks of several bluegrass tunes by Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen bring these words to life. Solivan's honey-sweet tenor, Chris Luquette's guitar and Danny Booth’s bass offer a soundtrack to the devil's summertime skinny-dipping adventures.

This Friday the trio visit the High Noon Saloon, where they'll present material from Cold Spell, an album coming out this week.

Solivan previously worked as a chef in his native Alaska, so it's both impressive and oddly fitting that he's found his niche in a musical style that thrives on order within chaos, much like a successful restaurant. Survival is a theme that appears in roots music frequently, but it never feels clichéd in Solivan's hands, perhaps because it has so much personal meaning.

He has long been known as a talented bluegrass singer, songwriter and mandolinist, but the band has bolstered his reputation. The group caught the attention of the bluegrass scenes in Baltimore and their home base of Washington, D.C., with their self-titled 2010 debut and their eye-catching presence on the festival circuit.

Then came critical accolades. The group's 2013 release, On the Edge, received high marks from bluegrass reviewers, who praised the crew's tight instrumental work and a versatile sound that hints at what's possible in the genre. The act also won five awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association last year.

On Cold Spell, a lyrical ode to a frustrating romance, "She Said She Will," features a lusty acoustic bass and pounding instrumentals, including a guest appearance by banjo god Mike Munford. Slower tunes, like the pensive "Better (Days Go By)," show off the band's outstanding vocal harmonies and a guitar-banjo-mandolin combo that sounds like what would happen if bluegrass and jazz had a child and gave it a stringed instrument instead of a teddy bear. In other words, Cold Spell indicates that Solivan and company are only getting hotter.

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