Just Jazz Guitar’s Dr. Dave Walker

Kinloch Nelson Plays Tunnel 13 and other Petros Guitars is an album with a great story. As tone woods become scarcer and more difficult to obtain, luthiers have emerged at the forefront of those working to maintain existing resources. This has led to many innovative avenues to find great wood without further depleting the world’s forests. Bruce and Matt Petros found an amazing cache of 120-year aged Pacific Redwood, salvaged from the Southern Pacific Railroad Siskiyou Summit Tunnel #13. Some of this windfall makes up the wonderful collection of Petros guitars that Kinloch Nelson plays here.

Even without their colorful story these guitars are real beauties, so we are very fortunate that the CD cover contains fine photos of several of them. Kinloch also lists the guitar played on each track, which is great for comparing the very different timbres of some of the models.

The album begins with Afterthoughts, described as “a little prayer of thanks for life with the guitar.” Surely a sentiment shared by many guitarists in moments of reflection and beautifully put into music here. Kinloch Nelson plays with deftness and aplomb, in an effortless relationship with an instrument that he clearly loves.

Haste To The Wedding is a gentle Celtic piece arranged by a friend of Kinloch’s who passed away unexpectedly. This is a lovely memorial tribute with no sadness but a pure musical homage.

Kinloch then treats us to his own fine arrangement of Tennessee Waltz which sounds magnificent on the Petros Tasmanian Blackwood & Italian GC. The lower range of this guitar seems to reach out and hit you in the solar plexus while the upper range is clean and bell-like in its richness. The playing is superb, with a swinging grace that betokens a true professional.

A Rose In Spanish Harlem is another brilliant arrangement that will make you wonder why everybody doesn’t play this gem. Of course few players have the musical feel and ear of Kinloch Nelson, and this one is a real treasure to just sit back and enjoy.

Sunflower River Blues is an old John Fahey tune that sounds anything but old in this smoothly flowing arrangement. The guitars on this one (yes, he sneaks in two of them) sound incredibly rich in another fine tribute to one of our fingerstyle forefathers.

Cast Your Fate/Circle Game is a sort of medley, with each tune setting the other off in unexpectedly interesting ways. The overall mood is introspective without being overly serious. And need I say that the guitar sounds wonderful yet again?

Great Dreams From Heaven is a gently swinging tune for a very melodious heaven. Kinloch’s bridge flows so logically from the song that it is surprising to realize that it is an addition, as is the possibly tongue-in-cheek “Amen” ending.

Danny Boy/Going Home is a meditative pairing that once again pays tribute to a friend gone far too early. It is also a tribute to the amazing power of Kinloch’s arranging abilities that such a shopworn tune as Danny Boy can sound completely fresh, as it does here. A very touching duo of songs.

Bury Me Not On The Lone Prairie is almost an extension of Danny Boy and Going Home, so naturally does it seem to follow. However, the gorgeous low notes of the baritone guitar tell you immediately that this is not the C&W tune that you might have expected, but rather a thoroughly up-to-date rendition that blends the best of the old and new.

Having been a little surprised by the previous song, we can expect a most interesting interpretation of Oh! Susanna, and we are not disappointed. If the last tune left us on the lone prairie, here we witness Oh! Susanna seeming to rise up from the very ground and slowly coalesce into the tune that we know. Of course, Kinloch Nelson would not pass up the chance to add some spicy harmonies, making this a thoroughly enjoyable trip through a tune that will never sound the same to us again.

You Only Live Twice is a deliberate pun, a bit of irony for guitars that consist of wood in its second incarnation. You won’t have to be a fan of puns to enjoy the luscious sound of this track that features three incredible instruments. Who is not going to want a Petros guitar after hearing this album?!

Since the album has to end some time, the perfect way to do that is with another combination of three of these magnificent instruments, here on Wichita Lineman. In fact, the guitar sounds so wonderful that you are liable to miss what terrific performances Kinloch provides on them. But of course that is just a good excuse to listen to the album all over again.

This would be a very fine album just as a showcase for these amazing guitars, but the artistry of Kinloch Nelson as performer and arranger raises it to the highest echelon of guitar today. If you don’t know Kinloch Nelson yet, this is the perfect time to make the acquaintance of a very skilled, highly sensitive artist.

You can buy this audio gem directly from Kinloch Nelson on his web site, where you can also listen to clips from the tracks http://kinlochnelson.com/recordings.php. This is an album that you really should check out.

©2011 David Walker

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