When, over 30 years ago, country legends Alabama sang, "Oh, play me some mountain music/ like Grandma and Grandpa used to play/ then I'll float on down the river to a Cajun hideaway," the band had no idea that the Kitchen Dwellers would one day come along and turn that idea on its head. Oh sure, the Bozeman bluegrass band—and winners of this year's Zoo Music Awards in the Country & Bluegrass category—has a mountain music feel to it, and its eponymous debut album ebbs and flows like a river, but with song titles like "Redneck Bastard," this is definitely not your grandma's old-time music.
What the band does is take you on a ride that feels more like a rush through a Class V rapid then a languid float. The instrumental track "S.I.R." is a blitzkrieg of fiddles, banjos and acoustic guitars, and it represents both the album's biggest strength and weakness: The rapid-fire solos are great, but Kitchen Dwellers contains a ton of these, so it suffers at times from Too Much of a Good Thing Syndrome. That said, the band can surprise you. Singer Kyle Shelstad's voice sounds like Gomer Pyle with a nasty cold (which is oddly fun to listen to) and there are a couple of nice upright bass solos—particularly on "Mississippi Delta Queen"that occasionally give the album an unexpected jazz tone.
Kitchen Dwellers plays an album release show at the Top Hat Fri., Sept. 20, at 10 PM. Free.