A review for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
By Linton Corbie
Upon listening to Pat Kirtley's latest solo guitar release entitled KENTUCKY GUITAR, guitar wizard John Renbourn exclaimed: "This is what someone from Kentucky ought to sound like!" Such an enthusiastic endorsement from no less an authority than a living guitar legend like Renbourn should suffice to deem this album a "must have." Because I personally enjoyed this CD so much though, I feel compelled to document my own pleasure, as well as provide a little more information for the curious.
The album contains sixteen songs. Most of the compositions are by Kirtley but he pays homage to Merle Travis, one of his biggest influences, by doing wonderful versions of "Sixteen Tons," "Steel Guitar Rag" and "The Guitar Rag." He also does an exciting arrangement of the famous country standard "Ghost Riders in The Sky." Speaking of standards, I will be very surprised if more than a few of the songs contained in this album do not become standards themselves.
Guitar master Duck Baker has said that in addition to Kirtley's formidable technique, he is also "one of the best out there when it comes to writing a guitar tune." Baker backed up that assertion by recording Kirtley's "B-Rod's Rag." Kirtley includes this track in KENTUCKY GUITAR.
Like Chet Atkins, Kirtley exhibits a great fondness for jazz. He cites both Atkins and jazzman Dave Brubeck as early influences. His jazz leanings are particularly evident on "A Tip of The Hat."
Sensitivity and melodic aptitude are strong features in Kirtley's style. His playing is very clean and fluid; in keeping with the best of traditional thumb and finger-picking. On slow numbers, his sound conjures up images of meandering streams trickling unhurriedly through virgin forests. On up-tempo songs, he is simply a tour de force.
For those interested in the employment of alternative guitar tunings, this album makes for an excellent case study. In the liner notes, Kirtley generously details the different tunings for each song. This ought to keep any ambitious folk guitarist busy for quite a while.
If you're an aspiring guitarist or just love good country music then get this album. You will not be disappointed!
Copyright 1996, Three Rivers Folklife Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior written permission and attribution.