Kitchen Dwellers Jeffrey Neubauer photo

Over the years that I’ve been doing this music journalism gig, I’ve chatted with a few bluegrass acts like Del McCoury, the Cox Family and Alison Krauss & Union Station (pre-Robert Plant era), but recently my attention and ears were grabbed by a quartet out of Montana called Kitchen Dwellers and their latest album called “Seven Devils.” Dante’s Inferno inspired the CD. When I first heard it, I was pulled in by the talents of Shawn Swain (mandolin), Torrin Daniels (banjo), Joe Funk (upright bass), and Max Davies (acoustic guitar). Their vocals combine with tight, in-the-pocket musicianship, with a little rock energy thrown in from time to time, for a compelling listening experience I was not expecting from a bluegrass group,  and I said as much to Davies when he called me from his home in Bozeman, Montana, on March 8.

Davies: There’s a whole ecosystem of bluegrass from back in the day that really has umbrellaed out, so there’s the first guys that ever started it — Bill Monroe, Del McCoury — then it kind of grew in the 70s and has a lot of different changes to where we are today.

Q: Well, I’ll tell you, what you are doing is reminiscent of what I was hearing from Darol Anger and those folks in the Windham Hill days.
Davies: Oh, yeah!

Q: But then again, there’s a decided twist to that making what you guys are doing pretty cool.
Davies: (Laughter) Nice, that’s great — that’s awesome, man!

Q: To top it all off, you’re coming into a great venue here in Maine: the State Theatre.
Davies: Yeah, we played there one other time so we’re really excited to get back — we love playing Maine.

Q: When were you there before? How did I miss you?
Davies: We’ve done the Portland House of Music a few times and then we played last Halloween weekend at the State Theatre; and then we played at Thomas Point, the Maine Folk Festival this past summer. So yeah, we’re coming back, we’re super excited, we can’t wait, we love getting up to Maine … there are some good memories up there.


Q: Are you headlining this time?
Davies: We are, yup, so we’ll be playing two sets of music; and then we have Cris Jacobs out of Baltimore who is opening, he’s a really talented sort of singer-songwriter/rock and roller guy.

Q: Now, will some of the songs on “Seven Devils” have a prominent place in the show?
Davies: Oh sure, yeah, we play very different shows from night to night, as far as the set list goes, but we’ve only played a couple of shows since the album’s been out so you can bet that we’ll be giving the new album and the new music a good solid treatment in a lot of the shows.

Q: So, what can folks expect from your upcoming showdown at the State Theatre?
Davies: Well, they can expect two sets of music, a lot of energy, we like to have high-energy shows; there will be people dancing (pause) not everybody needs to or likes to dance and that’s totally fine. We have a light designer that comes on the road with us so there’ll be a light show and some new music — we’re just so excited to be playing and getting out live. Some of these songs are going to take on a life of their own in concert … it’s just going to be a big old celebration of music. That’s what we try to do every single night.

Q: What’s the bottom line here?
Davies: We want people to go home satisfied and we want to make sure they’ve had a fun night, that’s what we’re all about.

Q: Where does this new tour begin?
Davies: We start in Hartford, Connecticut, on the 21st, the next night we’re in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and then we make our way up to Portland on the 23rd.

Q: So that number album is this for you?
Davies: This is our fourth full-length album, we’ve done a couple of LPs, one for The Band and one for Pink Floyd, and we’ve released a handful of live albums.


Q: How long has your group been together?
Davies: We’ve been a band for going on something like 12 years, so it’s been a wild ride.

Q: Well, the sound you four create is so tight I figured you had to have been at it for a while.
Davies: That’s what we’ve been working on the last handful of years. It’s always been there since the inception of the band, but in the last couple of years, we’ve really kind of come into our own as far as the sound that we’ve been going for. There will always be innovation, we’re always going to be trying to move forward with the sound, but in the past couple of years, we’ve just narrowed it down a little bit to where we’ve been trying to go. We’ve really had fun kind of coming into our own.

Q: Is there anything, Max, that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Davies: Just that we’ve kind of developed this relationship with Maine and we feel at home in Maine because there are similarities between Maine and Montana. We play kind of ruralistic music, I think, and we’re so excited to come back and we want people to hear the new songs.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to get out there?
Davies: About five or six years ago we had a couple of days off and we went to Machias and got a house up there, so some of the songs on our last album, Wise River, were written in Machias, Maine.

Lucky Clark, a 2018 “Keeping the Blues Alive” Award winner, has spent more than 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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