In its first 10 years, the Kickin Grass Band has evolved from an occasional combo backing clogging teams to one of the most popular bands on the Americana and bluegrass circuits.
“Walk With Me,” the Raleigh-based quintet’s fourth album, attests to its maturity as songwriters, instrumentalists and storytellers. The 13-track disc is structured as a concept album, reflecting on life, death and rebirth.
Inspired by the deaths of bassist Patrick Walsh’s wife and mandolinist Jamie Dawson’s brother, and the birth of the Dawsons’ daughter, the band takes the listener on an emotional journey from sorrow to hope.
With five tracks written by guitarist/vocalist Linda Wittig Dawson, one by Dawson and fiddler Pattie Hopkins, and the instrumental “Thirty One” by banjoist Hank Smith, “Walk With Me” is a personal statement grounded in bluegrass yet venturing beyond its limits.
Beginning with the resolve that “No One Can Live Forever,” Wittig and company turn to music as source of healing.
The gospel sentiment of the title track is a highlight, with its “Hallelujah” chorus pointing the path from darkness to light: “I know the path is hard now/In our good company you’ll see no one is wanting / … There’s enough to go around when you walk with me.”
Well-chosen covers highlight the Kickin Grass ethos of musical eclecticism. Together with the band’s self-penned tracks, the Delmore Brothers’ “Blue Railroad Train,” Bill Monroe’s “Roanoke,” the uplifting swing classic “That’s What I Like About the South” and others, “Walk With Me” is intimate, inspiring and grand.
Correspondent Jack Bernhardt