• author
    • Kate Laddish

    • September 28, 2017 in Columnists

    Bluegrass chart-topping Kathy Kallick Band takes the show on the road

    In bluegrass circles, there’s ongoing debate about and rivalry between adherents of traditional, Bill Monroe-style music and other musicians’ eager willingness to blend in more contemporary influences. And then there are some bands, such as the Kathy Kallick Band, that move right past the talk to deliver music both traditional and contemporary with authority and flourish.

    The Kathy Kallick Band will hit the road for two runs of shows in California this autumn, starting at The Palms Playhouse in Winters on Thursday, September 28.

    Kathy Kallick has been a leading figure in the vibrant California bluegrass scene since co-founding the internationally acclaimed Good Ol’ Persons with Laurie Lewis in the 1970s. As part of the Good Ol’ Persons, Kallick helped pioneer and expand women’s roles in bluegrass by making lead playing, songwriting and singing lead and harmony more accepted activities for women in what had an old boys’ club genre.

    Seamless blending of traditional music and new songs is one of Kallick’s strengths. A prolific songwriter – she’s recorded over 150 of her own compositions – Kallick hits her stride combining the sound and style of trad bluegrass with her own compositions.

    As a lead vocalist, Kallick brings a clear tone and dash of warmth to a genre known for its high lonesome singing. She has won a Grammy and two IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) awards.

    Kallick formed the Kathy Kallick Band in the Bay Area in the 1990s. With members based in the Bay Area, Portland, Seattle and Anchorage, the quintet is definitely a West Coast outfit. While some West Coast bluegrass bands are drawn to a more jazz- and jam- influenced sound, the KKB’s roots are in the Northern California bluegrass tradition of Monroe-style propulsive music that incorporates new songs and isn’t adverse to women’s contributions.

    In addition to Kallick on lead vocals and guitar, the KKB is Annie Staninec on

    The Kathy Kallick Band is (clockwise from left) Annie Staninec, Tom Bekeny, Cary Black, Kathy Kallick and Greg Booth. (Courtesy photo by Anne Hamersky)

    fiddle and vocals, Tom Bekeny mandolin and vocals, Cary Black on acoustic bass and vocals and Greg Booth on dobro, banjo and vocals.

    Standout fiddler Annie Staninec, who has been performing professionally since she was 12 years old, can play with whip-like quickness or with a lyrical lilt. She dashes off solos and fills that bring an expansive quality to the band’s sound, and her evident joy in the music makes her an audience favorite. She received the 2015 IBMA Instrumentalist Momentum Award, the 2008-2010 Fiddle Player of the Year awards from the Northern California Bluegrass Society and the 2006 Dudley Hill Award for Outstanding Young Musicians at Djangofest Northwest.

    An in-demand musician, Staninec has also been a member of the Rod Stewart Band since 2015. Yes, pop star, area-touring Rod Stewart. Suffice to say, Staninec has range.

    Mandolinist Tom Bekeny has been playing with Kallick since 1996, is an alum of Laurie Lewis & Grant Street and has performed with the likes of Jerry Garcia, David Grisman and Peter Rowan. In addition to KKB, Bekeny is the fiddler in premier West Coast bluegrass band High Country, plays mandolin in Bill Evans’ Bay Area all-star bluegrass combo Bangers & Mash and performs with gypsy jazz guitarist George Cole. Bekeny has a solid foundation in blues as well as bluegrass, and hints of that inform his playing.

    Bassist Cary Black has performed and recorded with a who’s who including Dan Hicks, the Harry James Orchestra, the Kingston Trio, Mark O’Connor, the Boys of the Lough, Keith Little, Rose Maddox, Nina Gerber, and Petula Clark (of “Downtown” fame). Like Bekeny, Black was a member of Laurie Lewis & Grant Street, and he sang and played bass on Lewis’ IBMA-winning Song of the Year “Who Will Watch the Home Place.”

    Greg Booth started as a traditional bluegrass banjo player, but claims that long Alaskan nights lend themselves to musical exploration, leading to a style of his own. It also led to the dobro – and Booth winning the RockyGrass dobro competition a year after picking up the instrument.

    One of the KKB’s strengths is their tight-knit ensemble playing. Rather than playing like a collection of hot-shot soloists, the members of this band work together to create their full and integrated sound.

    KKB’s most recent release, 2016’s “Foxhounds,” is the band’s fifth and, like their previous releases, topped bluegrass charts.

    For more information, visit kathykallick.com and the venues’ websites.

    The Kathy Kallick Band’s upcoming tour dates:

    Thur., Sept. 28: The Palms Playhouse, Winters, Calif.
    Fri., Sept. 29: Foothill Community Concert Series at Foothill Presbyterian Church, San
    Jose, Calif.
    Sat., Sept. 30: Freight & Salvage, Berkeley, Calif.
    Sat., Nov. 4: The Red Barn Community Music Series, Los Osos, Calif.
    Sun., Nov. 5: Piazza’s Pine Cone Inn, Kernville, Calif.

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