Catfish Keith

A Fist Full of Riffs

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Some people fill a record with personality. Catfish Keith is one. Not only is his guitar picking out of this world, but a real sense of the pleasure he gets from playing comes through the speakers. Mixing it up with blues, New Orleans tunes, Caribbean music, Hawaiian picking, and a smidgen of ragtime on his eighth album, he's all over the place -- but a delight to follow. That's he's world class is beyond question, but there's more going in his work than just expansive technique. There's true thought and heart behind his moving version of "Motherless Children," just as there's a playful spirit inhabiting "12th Street Rag," with its jaw-dropping harmonics, or the title cut. Perhaps the best track, however, is "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground," with its deep, gorgeous slide work. Coming as it does after the bouncy "Way Out West," an instrumental reworking of a song Keith has recorded before, it's a stark change of mood that works well. He's superb on his interpretations of the Hawaiian pieces, with both "Kohala March" and "Hawaiian Cowboy" splendid exercises in frantic slack-key playing. Even if he chooses not to act the part, Catfish Keith is a guitar star. In a more perfect world, he'd be feted and his records would sell in huge quantities. As it is, though, just be grateful he puts out wonderful albums like this and enjoy them to the fullest.

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