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A Fist Full of Riffs

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Album Review

Some people fill a record with personality. Catfish Keith is one. Not only is his guitar picking out of this world, but a real sense of the pleasure he gets from playing comes through the speakers. Mixing it up with blues, New Orleans tunes, Caribbean music, Hawaiian picking, and a smidgen of ragtime on his eighth album, he's all over the place — but a delight to follow. That's he's world class is beyond question, but there's more going in his work than just expansive technique. There's true thought and heart behind his moving version of "Motherless Children," just as there's a playful spirit inhabiting "12th Street Rag," with its jaw-dropping harmonics, or the title cut. Perhaps the best track, however, is "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground," with its deep, gorgeous slide work. Coming as it does after the bouncy "Way Out West," an instrumental reworking of a song Keith has recorded before, it's a stark change of mood that works well. He's superb on his interpretations of the Hawaiian pieces, with both "Kohala March" and "Hawaiian Cowboy" splendid exercises in frantic slack-key playing. Even if he chooses not to act the part, Catfish Keith is a guitar star. In a more perfect world, he'd be feted and his records would sell in huge quantities. As it is, though, just be grateful he puts out wonderful albums like this and enjoy them to the fullest.


Born: 09 February 1962 in East Chicago, IN

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '90s, '00s

A cutting-edge blues singer, songwriter, and slide guitarist Catfish Keith was born on February 9, 1962 in East Chicago, IN. As a child he first heard the blues while living in "The Harbor," a working class steel mill town. Listening to Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and Buddy Guy on the radio gave him a love of the blues. When he first picked up the guitar as a teenager, he was inspired to aim for the deep Delta blues after hearing songs by Son House. Following high school in Davenport, IA, Catfish...
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A Fist Full of Riffs, Catfish Keith
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