Album review: Ken Nicol – Initial Variations

Released: 2008
Label: MVS

Initial VariationsThere is no question; Ken Nicol is one of the great masters of the guitar. His latest album Initial Variations is definitive proof, adding to an impressive catalogue of recordings, which span over 30 years.

To release a fully instrumental album is a brave decision to make, your instrument laid bare with no safety nets. A whole host of instruments are featured on the album including; Acoustic steel and nylon strung guitars, 5 string banjo, steel resonator and electric guitars, with mandolin, bass and percussion all provided by Nicol himself. There are no boundaries where genre is concerned, this rich tapestry of instrumentation flawlessly shifts between folk, bluegrass, jazz, acoustic and blues.

This is a challenge for any musician today in a lyrically dominated market; however Nicol carries a pure acoustic sound with empathy and precision. There is no need for song lyrics when you can conjure up exact emotions with a melody and a chord. There are some concepts and feelings that cannot be limited by words.

The whole album bears an interesting concept with 10 tracks, given just two initials for the title, referring to a specific person whom the track is dedicated to or written about. Whether it is the tender first track C.M., the melancholic seventh track B.H. or the playful fourth track P.C., you can’t help but picture the people and stories behind each one.

Some may take the view that this CD is aimed at so-called ‘musical nerds’ and for those people I urge you to broaden your horizons. If you appreciate passion, determination and craft then you will love this album.

Initial Variations is such a dynamic recording, which draws upon a listener’s imagination. Your mind’s eye creates images which could not be portrayed in any other way and herein is the true beauty of this recording.

– Charlie Barker


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