A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
I first became acquainted with the solo guitar music of 1995 National Fingerstyle Guitar Champion, Pat Kirtley, after reading several rave views of his first CD, Kentucky Guitar, over a year ago. After obtaining that CD, Pat instantly became one of my favorite musicians. It is always a thrill for me when I get an album based on the great magazine reviews which it drew and then discover for myself that the music reviewers were right on the mark. In the liner notes of Kentucky Guitar, it was mentioned that Pat had already begun work on an upcoming album which would feature traditional Irish music. Since reading that announcement, I have been keeping my eyes peeled for that new release. That moment has arrived and I got to be the lucky soul entrusted with the delightful task of reviewing it.
Irish Guitar was well worth the wait! It is an all-acoustic, solo, steel-string guitar interpretation of mostly traditional Irish tunes (airs, jigs, reels, etc.). Pat deviates from the solo approach on only two tracks. On Blind Mary, he does a duet with flautist Mark Cannon, and on The Red-Haired Boy, he is accompanied by guitarist Steve Rector.
Irish Guitar contains seventeen songs and for anyone who is familiar with Irish music, Kirtley's interpretation of this repertoire must be strikingly refreshing. He successfully manages the tricky task of preserving the music's identity while allowing Kirtley, the risk-taking and imaginative musician, to shine through. Compositions by the immortal Turlough O'Carolan abound throughout, but Kirtley also reveals his compositional talents by including a few of his own works as well. Paying tribute to the wonderful Pierre Bensusan, a respected guitarist peer, Pat also performs two of Bensusan's Irish-flavored numbers.
This CD created the most wondrous moods in me. It has an old-world, dreamy and nostalgic feel to it which is very difficult to describe. Upon each listening, I felt as if these songs had transported me into a beautiful and magical world that I once knew but had since forgotten. Each track is gorgeous, but it is the cumulative effect of all these well strung together pieces which really makes this album a truly special artistic outing.
I can't say enough about Pat Kirtley's abilities as an artist. As a guitarist myself, I was extremely impressed with his musical abilities on his album Kentucky Guitar, but on Irish Guitar he transcends the guitar and caresses the soul.
Edited by Cynthia A. Harney