Raleigh, NC based bluegrass and Americana group, The Kickin Grass Band, has made its mark on the roots music scene with strong voices, engaging musicianship and original songs that ride the edge of tradition. The Raleigh-based Kickin Grass Band is known for their unique bluegrass style—equal parts vintage and nouveau. On their newest release, Walk With Me, the band delightfully stretches and builds each song beyond their firm footing in bluegrass, appealing to a broad roots music audience. To the joy of listeners and benefit of the songs, the Kickin Grass Band is not afraid to follow their muse down the complementary paths of Old-time, Americana and folk.
The band deliberately approached this project as a full-length record, their first since 2008 and the first to feature the current lineup. Walk With Me presents an exploration of life’s passages, a close-to-home chronicle of heartbreaking loss and hopeful beginnings based on life-altering events in band members’ lives over the past 3 years, including the loss of a spouse, the loss of a brother and the birth of a daughter. Guitar player and songwriter Lynda Dawson explained, “We felt strongly that we needed to capture and express the emotional journey we’ve endured together through our music, especially now that we’re on the other side looking back.”
On the cusp of their new album release the Kickin Grass Band took home the award for “Best Bluegrass/Americana” at last month's 2012 Carolina Music Awards. Here’s what Chris Parker from Durham, North Carolina’s Independent Weekly has to say:
“Kickin Grass are special. Though their music hails from Appalachia, it drifts as much as it races, gentle melodic glow glimmering like twilight on a metal bumper. They're wonderfully talented players equal to those on the jamgrass circuit...but they are dedicated more to songcraft. The arrangements are warm and energetic, with strains of bluegrass, Celtic, gospel and country. Those elements are just the icing. The cake itself is the vocals, particularly the harmonizing of the quintet's females, guitarist Lynda Dawson and fiddler Pattie Hopkins.”
Half of the songs were penned by signature vocalist and main songwriter Lynda Dawson, with assists from newest members fiddle player Pattie Hopkins and banjo player Hank Smith. The remaining cover songs were chosen to spotlight the personalities of the individual band members, but also to play on their strength as a cohesive unit. Vocals are passed back and forth between Dawson’s soaring lead on five of the tracks, Hopkins’s bluesy sound on two, bass player Patrick Walsh’s ethereal tenor on two, and mandolin player Jamie Dawson’s retro-tinted lead on one, with tasteful harmonic seasoning throughout. Even with shifts in instrumentation, arrangement, narration and guest players, there remains a distinctive Kickin Grass Band sound that threads the tunes together, creating a colorful, mosaic tapestry of an album, and an expertly-crafted package of rootsy Americana-style bluegrass.
“These were life-altering events for all of us, both individually and as bandmates and close friends,” explains Lynda Dawson. “We felt strongly that we needed to capture and express the emotional journey we had endured through our music, especially now that we’re on the other side looking back.”
To take in the album as a singular experience is to travel with the group from a questioning uncertainty to an understanding acceptance. The message: the big answers may be beyond our grasp, but our communal search for them binds us together. If you look hard enough you may just find an answer—and a comfort—in the people who walk with you.