By Antonio Wellman
In Montana, The Kitchen Dwellers’ home state, the new age bluegrass band has grown beloved for their dynamic and energetic live performances filled with blazing fast solos and extended jam sessions. With their growing fame in Montana and around the country, The Kitchen Dwellers have returned with their second studio album, Muir Maid, to show us that they can capture the excitement of their live performances and transpose that onto a record––the only thing missing from the album is the smell of spilt beer and the stomps and hollers from the audience.
Muir Maid was recorded and produced by The Infamous Stringdusters’ Chris Pandolfi. The band spent the last several years touring but still found time to write an album that is as tight as it is refined, an impressive feat in and of itself. While The Kitchen Dwellers are indeed a bluegrass band, Muir Maid blends bluegrass traditions with modern psychedelia, reggae, and electronic styles to create what has been dubbed “Galaxy Grass”. The album is familiar while filled with the excitement of the new, it’s a premonition of what bluegrass is becoming as it thoroughly roots itself in the culture of the American West.
Musical cross germination like this would be impossible without the musicianship each of the band members possess, and each song showcases the band’s talent with memorable riffs and lyrical lines. The main riff on the eleventh track, “Foundation”, asks listeners to dance and have a good time, but with other tracks on the album we’re reminded of the depth of the music with lyrics like: “Ghosts know that God casts shadows”. Muir Maid simultaneously achieves contemplation and thrill, a testament to The Kitchen Dwellers’ abilities as musicians and songwriters.
Lyrically, the album takes a page from the traditional bluegrass playbook, complete with themes of love, loss, and alcohol, but the Kitchen Dwellers update these themes for the modern age––painting vivid pictures and telling captivating stories that are relatable for the bluegrass listeners of today.
The second song on the album, “Broken Cage”, starts with a joyous and bouncy instrumental section before singer/banjo player, Torrin Daniels, tells a tale of a lonely life on the road. The juxtaposition of contentment and loneliness in the lyrics is mirrored by the juxtaposition of the reggae halftime intro and more traditional fiddle lines and solos dispersed throughout the track. Like much of the album, “Broken Cage” defies expectations through the seemingly effortless blend of both theme and genre.
Muir Maid asks us to be active listeners with its use of effects and minor keys you wouldn’t find listening to Earl Skruggs or Bill Monroe. This is exemplified on the instrumental track, “The Living Dread”, which liberally employs wah, whammy, and delay effects that send the breakdowns into space before more traditional solos bring the listener back to earth. Muir Maid feels like a celebration of music, what the American West has been, and what it’s becoming. The album takes us on a journey through genres that will remind you of the bluegrass of your grandparents while simultaneously being removed from that tradition. It’s uncanny, it’s beautiful, and frankly, it’s fun to listen to. Once again, the Kitchen Dwellers impress.
Photos by Taylor Barrett
Learn more about The Kitchen Dwellers and find out about their upcoming shows here: https://www.kitchendwellers.com/
Stream the new album, Muir Maid, on all major platforms.
Also, be sure to check out their new music video for “Shadows”, which debuted on Billboard.