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June '09 Media Preview

Pickin' Like Chet, From the Basement, King's X, The Black Keys, Solo Jazz Guitar books and videos reviewed


Pickin’ Like Chet: Chet Atkins’ Vintage Classics Volume One & Two Taught by Pat Kirtley Stephan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop
Pat Kirtley has impressive fingerstyle guitar creds having done a stack of CDs and instructional videos, to say nothing of his being 1995 US National Fingerstyle Champion, and National Thumbpicking Champion in 1994. He is obviously a big Chet Atkins fan and in these DVD sets Kirtley has delivered up a huge serving of great Chet tunes. Volume One is 173 minutes of Chetty goodness featuring “Hidden Charm,” “Mystery Train,” “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To,” “St Louis Blues,” “Oh By Jingo,” and “Chinatown, My Chinatown.” Volume Two clocks in at 122 minutes and contains “Rose Ann,” “Down Home,” “Somebody’s Knockin’,” “Trambone,” “Drive In,” and “Alice Blue Gown.” These are classic Chet tunes and several of them are must haves for Chet-o-philes. Kirtley takes his time and explains each tune in detail with a full speed performance and then each tune is shown slowly bit by bit. The set comes with a book of transcriptions as well as PDF files on the discs. Kirtley also covers information about effects like reverb and delay as they apply to the songs.

Now if you are like me in that you love this sort of DVD lesson, then you probably have a stack of DVDs—some of which make you think why the heck did I buy that junk? and others that you go to over and over again. This is one of the latter. Frankly, lessons aside, I just enjoyed hearing Kirtley play these tunes; he plays them beautifully and gets a pretty authentic Chet tone with his Taylor T5. Just in case all this good stuff isn’t enough for you Volume One also includes some classic Chet videos, three from The Purina Show in 1955; The Poor People of Paris, Side by Side, and Makin’ Believe, and from 1958’s Ozark Jubilee; Villa and Say Si Si. It’s always a joy to hear Chet in his prime and it’s worth it just to see the outfits these folks wore.

So hey Chet fans, rejoice and check this out, you may learn something. Be sure to visit Pat Kirtley on My Space at; he has posted some nice clips including one of “Mystery Train” from this set. –PS

List: $39.95 per volume

From the Basement DVD
Ever wonder what it’d be like to have a collection of TV show performances on DVD from some of contemporary indie’s biggest names without the grotesquely gushing TV hosts? From the Basement does just that and does it well. The series of artist performances was originally recorded and aired from a UK basement studio, and was later picked up and distributed in the US on the Rave channel and also on IFC. There are performances from Radiohead, including two In Rainbows tracks with just Thom Yorke on piano; the disc also includes PJ Harvey, The White Stripes, Sonic Youth, Beck and Albert Hammond Jr. of The Strokes fame.

The recording producer of these sessions, Nigel Godrich, wanted these performances to be seen as the truest representation of the state of their artists work, captured in a way that lets their talents speak without the interference of presenters, logos or audiences. He does this simply by making the music the focus with few if any distractions.

With each artist performing either one or two songs, the DVD has a seamless flow from track to track, artist to artist. In addition to its stripped down demeanor, it provides gearheads with a healthy dose of rare and peculiar guitars and amps. Whether you’re a fan of Jack White’s Sears Silvertone 1485 amp paired with a 1965 JB Hutto Montgomery Airline guitar; Sonic Youth’s pairing of a vintage Fender Jazzmaster and Jaguar; or PJ Harvey’s unidentified 12-string acoustic used on “The Piano”, this underground series covers many gear-loving bases.

The only negative was the fact that there was no on-screen identification for songs or artists. However, the overall setup and production is uniquely cozy as the DVD provides a platform for the artists to play seemingly directly to the viewer… in their own basement. –CK

List: $14.98

King’s X: Gretchen Goes to London Live DVD
The year 1990 was a turbulent one for rock music. The Seattle Sound was gaining notoriety, and among those bands slowly garnering more attention was King’s X.

Originally rising from the ashes of Sneak Preview, the band regrouped and christenedthemselves King’s X, and gained many fans, one of which was Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament, who has credited King’s X with inventing grunge. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree, the impact that the group has had is known by few outside of the music world.

The live release Gretchen Goes to London, now available on DVD through Molken Music, is a perfect way to introduce the band exhibiting their signature raw sound. The footage was taped at The Astoria in May of 1990, right at the moment when the group started to gain some commercial success. Little did they know that only a year later they would be opening for AC/DC. Gretchen Goes to London captures the essence of the legendary group quite well, even if the sound mix could use a little adjustment here and there. Video-wise, it’s a treat to watch the band rip through their set, especially staples such as “Over My Head” and “Summerland” (that’s the solo that cements Ty Tabor as one of the most underrated guitarists ever).

If you’re not familiar with King’s X, you should be, and Gretchen Goes to London is an excellent place to start. –JW

List: $18.98

The Black Keys: Live At The Crystal Ballroom
2008 found the now well-established Black Keys in Portland, Oregon, for an energetic stand at the Crystal Ballroom.

Couldn’t be there? This DVD comes about as close as possible, without all the friendly audience elbows. Live performance video has come a long way with the prodding of people like producer and director Lance Bangs (REM’s Road Movie). Sound and image quality are of course top notch, but the camera work is what really brings this raucous show in to your living room. For a relatively cozy venue, the sweeping shots and close up stage film keep you on stage with the band, with choice glimpses of Dan Auerbach’s plethora of old, crusty gear including an oversized Silvertone 1454 with a Bigsby, a vintage Marshall Super Lead and even a song on a Rhodes Electric Piano. Onstage banter between the crowd and the band is nonexistent as the Keys concentrate on a strong performance of an equally strong set of songs. The sound quality of this live recording further showcases the Black Keys now familiar combination of fuzz, rhythm, and memorable lyrics.

While this is only the second live DVD released by the band, fans can pick from a number of critically acclaimed EPs and albums.

The disk includes 17 live songs from the Black Keys’ successful discography as well as behind-the-scenes segments on the making of the Black Keys’ fifth album Attack & Release and the making of their notable “Your Touch” video. The original music videos for “Your Touch,” “Just Got to Be” and “Strange Times” are also included. –BO

List: $12.99


Solo Jazz Guitar: Through Chord- Melody & Beyond
This topic has been covered by many books, but few as comprehensive as this one, written by the venerable Howard Morgen. At almost 200 pages this is a pretty thick book, just as solo guitar is a deep topic. I think of books like this as a tool box from which you can take the tools you want as you need them. The best feature of this book is that rather than useless songs based on standard changes that you won’t ever play, Morgen gives you 11 real standards including classics like “‘Round Midnight,” “Li’l Darlin’,” and “My Funny Valentine.” That means once you work your butt off learning this stuff, you can actually go out on a gig and play them—that’s a biggie.

Each song is dissected then reassembled, and some of the tunes have several versions to illustrate different aspects of the illustrated techniques. This is great as you get to see how an arrangement is constructed, so you can move on to creating your own arrangements using the tools in the book. The book has 14 chapters which go into fair depth on topics like inner moving voices, two note comping, key selection, walking bass lines, and chord substitution. Morgen at least touches on all you need to know to start getting your solo style happening. Further he has a large list of other books he recommends to get into particular aspects of this style. A CD of the examples is included. Howard has been a guitar teacher and writer for a long time and his experience really shines in this work. Highly recommended! –PS

List: $34.95