Artist: Ken Hatfield
Title: String Theory
Label: Arthur Circle Music
Genre: Classical / Contemporary
Buy CD: cdbaby
Review by David Belmont
I waited for Sunday morning to listen to this CD by Ken Hatfield again and write this review. While I think this music is enjoyable at other times as well, it seems to me particularly suited for the start of a relaxing day. A time I often reserve for Grant Green, Adrian Legg or Julian Bream.
From the opening notes, it’s clear you’re listening to a master string player. His tone is full, his articulation precise. And while Hatfield’s technique is impressive, what’s striking is the emotional nuance of these very personal performances.
The CD is made up of four multi-movement works, recorded in 2002-05. “The Gospel According to Sam” contains three duets between nylon string guitar and dobro which Hatfield dedicates to his father. This artful cross-genre blend runs seamlessly from old time country through various forms of pop and back again, and conjures up Hatfield’s Appalachian roots. He plays both the guitar and dobro parts. Their blend sounds so organic, it’s hard to believe they weren’t recorded at the same time.
“Snowhill Variations” starts with an expressive neo-classical, followed by twelve variations. A beautiful journey on the solo nylon string guitar.
Hatfield is back to duets in String Theory, these between his nylon string and mandolin. The title is a multiple entendre of many things, including (yes) modern physics. Hatfield combines the sharper, brighter mandolin tone with the warmer nylon sound to great effect.
The record closes with the seven solo guitar movements of Borges and I, each titled for a particular short story by the Argentinian writer (as is the title of the suite). While continuing in a mainly classical vein, Hatfield blends in some jazz and pop ballad tonalities.
Overall, this is a fantastic introduction to Hatfield’s music as well as a wonderful program in its own right. You can check more of his music at kenhatfield.com.
One last note. Even in this digital age of streams and downloads, I recommend buying this CD in order to get the liner notes written by the artist, which are informative and entertaining.