March 15, 2006
It’s a treat to stumble across fresh guitar sounds and novel concepts, and guitarist Ken Hatfield offers both in his latest solo album, String Theory. Within this remarkable work are two intricately composed duets, each presented as a three-part suite. One is a musical dialog between a fingerstyle nylon-string and a resonator slide guitar, the other between a nylon-string and a tinkling mandolin. In these duets, Hatfield performs both parts, overdubbing each in one pass to preserve a live feel. The timbral mix of nylon and whining reso is as striking as it is unusual. The classical’s crisp attack contrasts so beautifully with the Dobro’s whining slurs and liquid holler, one wonders why this pairing hasn’t been explored more deeply. String Theory also contains two extended solo-guitar suites. The first begins with a brief, but haunting piece of counterpoint, followed by 12 variations that move from shades of baroque to hip bossa-flavored chording. Boasting seven movements, the second suite is equally diverse, with fingerstyle jazz sharing airtime with intensely polyphonic fingerpicking. Throughout String Theory, Hatfield’s playing is brainy, dynamic, and relentlessly melodic. (Arthur Circle Music).