I confess to never having heard of Frank Solivan before. The press release told me little, a GRAMMY nomination, top prize in a Mid Atlantic Song Contest apart. It left the underlying message that this was an extended family project called "Family, Friends & Heroes" recorded in an intimate living room style.
Slipping the cd into the player, the first thing you notice is the impeccable playing, a Mandolin led version of Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman" that morphs in and out of the Beatles "Day Tripper", it grabs your attention just when you expected "Do we need another version"? The answer to that question a resounding "yes", if it's this good.
Immediate comparisons with that great group Area Code 615, a bunch of Nashville superstars who issued two outstanding records on the cusp of 1970, spring to mind.
Listening on, what follows the opener is thirteen tracks of varied music in a bluegrass style. What follows is sense of musical fun and togetherness summed up perfectly in the second track "Mask, Snorkel and Fins" a reggae tinged summer holiday written by Solivan himself.
And with the album progressing through a talking blues "The Fishin Song" written with cousin Ty Smith, we are then introduced to more family members, cousins (John Cruz, Megan McCormick), his father Frank Snr who contributes Banjo and Guitar on a couple of tracks.
"Cazenovia, Casanova" a self-penned instrumental sees Frank effortlessly switch to fiddle as Sam Bush takes over the Mandolin, they are joined by Jerry Douglas on Dobro, Mike Mumford Banjo and Danny Booth on Bass.
Johnny Cash's country flavoured "I Still Miss Someone" gets a slow sumptuous swing treatment, Teresa Michel (another Cousin) provides pitch perfect lead vocals, whilst John Denver's "Leaving On A Jet Plane" becomes a Mandolin driven heaven with Rob Ickes' Dodro deliciously underpinning the whole thing.
Lorene Solivan, Frank's late mother posthumously appears here having being captured on tape singing the traditional "Wayfaring Stranger", it shows what a powerful soulful voice she had even in her Sixties, the live applause from the mixing desk and the heartfelt "thank you" add to the poignancy. As does the flowery album artwork, also drawn by Lorene.
The overall feel here is musicians sitting round on a porch, picking up whatever instruments are to hand and playing favourite tunes for the sheer enjoyment of making music. If that concept rocks your boat you'll love this record.
"Family, Friends & Heroes" is a tribute to all those involved and perhaps just as important it is a joy to listen to.
It's fitting to allow the sleeve notes the final words "Enjoy and remember that love is all that matters in the end"
|Kitty Macfarlane: Tide & Time||Winter Wilson: Ashes And Dust|
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