KEN NICOL - Initial Variations

KEN NICOL - Initial Variations
MVS Sound Ltd. MVSCD018

Preston’s own guitar hero has nailed it again.  Ten beautifully arranged instrumental tracks, predominantly acoustic guitar orientated as those familiar with KN’s work would expect, but with generous helpings of stunning banjo work and smatterings of divine Dobro and electric lead.  I would urge even listeners who wouldn’t normally subject themselves to an entire album of instrumentals to give this one a bash.

Those of us familiar with KN’s work will recognise some motifs from previous accompaniments, but here they are fully developed as stand alone pieces – although mysteriously each one is named after the initials of people who have had an important influence in his life (mostly family and friends – don’t make the mistake I did and try to guess which musical influence a particular track was named after).  Of course, by giving each track such obscure titles, does away with any debate as to whether the name is appropriate to the music.  I’m assuming that the persons so obliquely referred to have been aware of the fact that they’ve had tracks named after them (as far as the rest of us are concerned, he might as well have called them movements 1 to 10 inclusive). Mind you, on a similar theme, the initials of the title are shown as Roman letters, which can also suggest the Roman number 4 (although even that significance is lost on me as this is, by my reckoning, his eleventh solo effort [not counting the cassette-only albums from years back]).

The tunes themselves do stand alone, my highlights being R.B., B.H. and P.C., as they all show KN at his best – roller coasters of musical virtuosity that spell bind this listener – but there’s much merit in all tracks.  A must buy for the guitar geeks among us – just try not to analyse the track naming convention).

Grem Devlin

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This album was reviewed in Issue 82 of The Living Tradition magazine.