The Lonesome Chronicles
A distinctive quality of bluegrass music is that songs about being lonesome–not just out of sorts, but isolated, remote, veritably swirling with feelings of abandonment–can be delivered in an upbeat, practically giddy style. The title of Kathy Kallick’s latest album prepares the listener for a depressing dirge. The reality is a welcome surprise.
Bluegrass Unlimited readers were treated to a thorough reintroduction to the musician in the July 2023 issue. Jon Hartley Fox provided the back-story that readers even familiar with the San Francisco Bay area musician may not have known. But listeners out of touch with Kallick’s history can still identify with the sentiment expressed in her Ode to Loneliness. No concerts. No festivals. No meetings with live people. No hugs or handshakes even. And for a while there, even facial expressions were covered. The Lonesome Chronicles, including six songs with the word “Lonesome” in the title, was a pandemic baby. And we were all there for its consummation and delivery.
A Grammy and two-time IBMA award winner, Kallick has little left to prove, and perhaps that is the liberated spirit that guided her in this project. She waxes poetic in her liner notes, beginning with a shout-out to bluegrass radio producers, hosts, and DJs by name. She also names musician pioneers who were lost during the pandemic, up until recent times, and extends copious thanks to heroes, influencers and supporters. She’s grateful for creative workarounds, and even those willing to provide venues for the “big return.” A CD bonus is the inclusion of song lyrics.
In addition to Kallick’s original songs, dobro and banjo player Greg Booth contributed “Lonesome Dobro Blues.” Tributes to John Prine and Earl Scruggs were recorded as well as a few songs with such intriguing titles as “Roscoe Got the Rabbit,” and “25 Chickens” just to keep the listener guessing. The closing song by mandolinist Tom Bekeny brings a sense of closure, described as “a joyful romp reflecting the end of all that lonesomeness.”