In a press release accompanying his fifth and latest album with Dirty Kitchen there is, amidst a listing of his and the band’s many awards and accolades, a telling quote: “I was going through the hardest time of my life leading up to the pandemic. Then the world stopped.”
Solivan further relates that the songs he wrote and recorded for this project, “helped bring me out of a seemingly hopeless situation.”
Indeed. Although the overall vibe here is one of optimism, much of this music is charged with a painful sense of romantic and spiritual urgency and vulnerability that is nearly overwhelming in its sheer honesty and humanity. More than once I found myself thinking, “Yep, been there a time or two ….”
“I’m Letting Go,” for instance, is a succinct but powerful statement of agonizing regret balanced against a steely determination to move on and rise above the sorrows of the past. The song features an exquisite instrumental interlude.
“Hold On” captures the urgency of struggling to hold on to love against powerful yet somewhat mysterious external forces. It’s framed with some extraordinary band interplay (featuring bandmembers guitarist Chris Luquette, banjo master Mike Munford along with bassist Jeremy Middleton) and capped off by Solivan’s deeply expressive high baritone-tenor voice.
“Goodbye, Goodbye” features equally compelling lyrics and a lovely melody, which Solivan restates and expands upon with a soulful mandolin ride. These songs and others—like “(Lord Help Me) Find My Way”—dig deep into the pain, travail and rewards of life and love in a deeply personal way that listeners are apt to find both exhilarating and redeeming.
Solivan also takes some changes of pace here and there with some eclectic covers. These include Newgrass Revival’s dreamy “Sail to Australia” (featuring John Cowan on harmonies), Buzz Busby’s “Lost” and the pop group Orleans’ “Sails.” Added to the mix is a pedal-to-the-medal Solivan instrumental original called “Scorchin’ The Gravy.”