Irish Guitar

Pat Kirtley
Mainstring Records

Boston Irish Reporter / January 1998

That O'Carolan's music continues to remain part of the tradition is evident in the fact that every Irish guitarist's repertoire includes O'Carolan pieces. Pat Kirtley's latest recording is a testament to that as it contains five of the itinerant harper's compositions. Kirtley, the 1995 National Fingerstyle Guitar Champion, has his roots in the music of his native Kentucky and his two previous CD's highlighted the traditional American musical styles he grew up with. This wonderful recording, his first foray into Irish music, is all solo acoustic guitar except when joined by Mark Cannon's flute on O'Carolan's Blind Mary and Steve Rector's guitar on the 'Kentuck-ification' of the well known Red-Haired Boy. New compositions like Kirtley's own Finn MacCool's Reel as well as two pieces by French guitarist Pierre Bensusan help to lend balance to the recording which relies heavily on the tried and true Irish guitar repertoire like Si Beag Si Mhor, The South Wind and Fannie Power. It is Kirtley's masterful playing though, which stands out and begs to be listened to. On his lovely first foray into the world of Irish music, Kirtley has produced a winner and a must-have for any fan of Celtic guitar.

Guitar Magazine December `97 issue "-Best of the Bunch for 1997-"

Despite having won the National Fingerpicking Championship with his rip-snorting version of "Ghost Riders In The Sky," Pat Kirtley's fingerpicking forte remains his delicate touch combined with subtle and craft-laden melodic invention. This is exhibited in abundance on his new recording, Irish Guitar, a collection of 17 drop-dead gorgeous arrangements of mostly solo, well-known airs, dances, and songs from the Celtic side of acoustic guitar repertoire. Each piece is artfully rendered and beautifully recorded, and Kirtley's arrangements are nonpareil. Witness his version of the chestnut "The Pretty Milkmaid," which, in Kirtley's hands, is transcendent.

Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange, the Peterborough Folk Music Society, Feb 1999

I first became acquainted with the solo guitar music of 1995 National Fingerstyle Guitar Champion Pat Kirtley, after reading several rave reviews of his first CD, Kentucky Guitar, over a year ago. After obtaining that CD, Pat instantly became one of my favorite musicians. It is always a thrill for me when I get an album based on the great magazine reviews which it drew and then discover for myself that the music reviewers were right on the mark. In the liner notes of Kentucky Guitar, it was mentioned that Pat had already begun work on an upcoming album which would feature traditional Irish music. Since reading that announcement, I have been keeping my eyes peeled for that new release. That moment has arrived and I got to be the lucky soul entrusted with the delightful task of reviewing it. Irish Guitar was well worth the wait! It is an all-acoustic, solo, steel-string guitar interpretation of mostly traditional Irish tunes (airs, jigs, reels, etc.). Pat deviates from the solo approach on only two tracks. On Blind Mary, he does a duet with flautist Mark Cannon, and on The Red-Haired Boy, he is accompanied by guitarist Steve Rector.

Irish Guitar contains seventeen songs and for anyone who is familiar with Irish music, Kirtley's interpretation of this repertoire must be strikingly refreshing. He successfully manages the tricky task of preserving the music's identity while allowing Kirtley, the risk-taking and imaginative musician, to shine through. Compositions by the immortal Turlough O'Carolan abound throughout, but Kirtley also reveals his compositional talents by including a few of his own works as well. Paying tribute to the wonderful Pierre Bensusan, a respected guitarist peer, Pat also performs two of Bensusan's Irish-flavored numbers. This CD created the most wondrous moods in me. It has an old-world, dreamy and nostalgic feel to it which is very difficult to describe. Upon each listening, I felt as if these songs had transported me into a beautiful and magical world that I once knew but had since forgotten. Each track is gorgeous, but it is the cumulative effect of all these well strung-together pieces which makes this album a truly special artistic outing.

I can't say enough about Pat Kirtley's abilities as an artist. As a guitarist myself, I was extremely impressed with his musical abilities on his album Kentucky Guitar, but on Irish Guitar he transcends the guitar and caresses the soul.

Dirty Linen Magazine Nov `97 issue

Irish Guitar features 17 instrumentals, mostly traditional, by fingerstyle guitarist Pat Kirtley. Kirtley is firmly rooted in the Pierre Bensusan, John Renbourn, Duck Baker school of playing. The tunes are given an honest airing, never hurried, letting the melody lines develop fully. Even though most of the tunes have been done dozen's of times elsewhere, Kirtley's interpretations shine a fresh light on them. A joy to listen to and one of the best albums of traditional guitar I've heard.

Acoustic Guitar Magazine April `98 issue

Kirtley's nimble and heartfelt renderings of 17 traditional and Irish and Irish-influenced tunes are a delight. The sway of John Renbourn, Duck Baker, and Pierre Bensusan is obvious, yet Kirtley articulates the emotional quality of each piece (the deep melancholy of "The Pretty Milkmaid", the agile gaiety of "Rodney's Glory") according to his own vision and sensitivity. The solo guitar format is nicely augmented on "Blind Mary" by by Mark Cannon on Irish wooden flute, and by guitarist Steve Rector on a spirited "Red Haired Boy". A generous portion of Turlough O'Carolan makes this a potent listening experience.

Fingerstyle Guitar Magazine July/August `97 issue

It's been a couple of years since Pat Kirtley's last CD. His current offering, Irish Guitar, is well worth the wait. This hefty collection of 17 tracks of mostly traditional tunes is ingeniously arranged and brilliantly played by one of the emerging stars of the fingerstyle world.

In the Walnut Valley Festival list of artists: