Catfish Keith, Land of the Sky, Fishtail Records
Catfish Keith’s full range of acoustic guitar pyrotechnics are on display in his 20th album, Land of the Sky – picking, plucking, pinching, bending, sliding, harmonics-ing, on his wide collection of guitars, which include parlours, full-size 6 strings,12-strings, Nationals and a ukulele. It’s a feast of hugely enjoyable guitar fare for any guitar, blues, roots or just music fan.
Land of the Sky comes hot on the heels of his excellent collection of Catfish original songs in 2020’s Blues at Midnight and his 2019 Catfish Crawl set of eclectic blues and old-timey songs.
Five-time Blues Music Award nominee Catfish says that after 50 years of playing, he still gets the same excitement and fun out of music as he always has. And that’s evident in spades in Land of the Sky, a sense of fun and enthusiasm which, as you listen, is quite infectious.
Of the thirteen songs on the album, three are original Catfish compositions and the rest by the likes of Rev Gary Davis, Charlie Patton and Memphis Minnie. There’s more than just blues to enjoy, however – the album gets off to a cracking start with Jimmie Rodgers’ Away Out on the Mountain, Catfish adding much, much more on the guitar accompaniment than on the Rodgers’ original, but, remarkably, adding in some Rodgers-style yodelling. A fine job he makes of it too.
This is followed up by a trip to the islands with Bahamian Joseph Spence’s amusing Bimini Girl, and then we’re into the first of two Gary Davis songs, Samson and Delilah and later Sit Down By the Banks of the River. These interpretations are a world away from Davis’s approach to the songs, but are brilliantly done, the latter on Catfish’s Ralph Brown “Barbeque Bob” Stella-style 12-string. The two songs, and indeed the rest of the set, benefit from Catfish’s expressive singing,
The delightfully titled Scoodle Oot’n’Doo, a Catfish original, sees him wielding the ukulele – not with the chunky strumming you normally associate with ukulele players, but here…it’s more than quite tasteful.
There’s a nice instrumental to enjoy as well – a soothing, rhythmic version of the old fiddle tune, Listen to the Mockingbird. There’s even a Christmas song, Walter Davis’s Santa Claus Blues, with Davis’s piano rather ominously transformed into bit 12-string guitar chords.
Catfish rounds off this rather wonderful collection with Charley Patton’s Some of These Days, where we’re treated to some exquisite slide guitar on this warm-hearted number on Catfish’s National Tricone.
This is a hugely enjoyable collection of roots songs, with new life breathed into them by a master interpreter and jaw-droppingly good guitarist. Don’t hesitate.
Check out our recent interview with Catfish Keith HERE.