Review Summary: A man and his instrument in its rawest and purest form.
Chances are you’ve seen a video on YouTube of a bald man with an impressive beard playing an even more impressive tune: “Drifting”. This is the way most people have come into contact with the music of Andy McKee. Now, if you’ve seen this particular video, chances are higher that you’re already familiar with his compositions due to the curiosity you likely couldn’t control. If you haven’t and Andy McKee is still unknown to you, I envy you for that initial pleasure of discovering his music.
Enjoying a background in rock and metal (which today McKee claims still influence him greatly), a young Andy became captivated by jazz and folk-spirited acoustic music in his late teen years. Through passionate self-studying of the instrument and a wish to share his compositions, McKee gradually began to make a name for himself in the rather tightly knit acoustic community, even earning high placement in several national fingerstyle guitar competitions. Incorporating a harp guitar and baritone guitar next to his trusty six-stringer, McKee must have constantly looked for ways to broaden his horizons and become a more well versed player over the years. This approach has undoubtedly paid off as his music has breached out of the small acoustic community and reached people all over the world with songs like “Drifting”, “Rylynn” and “Africa” (a stylish interpretation of the Toto classic) earning millions and millions of views on YouTube.
Using the aforementioned multitude of influences to the utmost, each song has a unique vibe and something entirely different to offer. With songs clocking in at three to four minutes on average, a healthy balance in assorted sounds is maintained throughout. From uplifting soundtrack-esque compositions like “Keys to the Hovercar”, to the soothing and almost trance inducing “Into the Ocean”, “Art of Motion” soulfully covers close to every sound you would expect from an acoustic album and more. Because of the immaculate songwriting skills that McKee enjoys, he constantly manages to bring intriguingly memorable melodies to the table. You will likely find yourself humming them within days of listening to “Art of Motion”. The album steers clear of becoming repetitive, for many a bane of the genre, due to McKee’s nature of frequently offering stunning and unexpected variations of the main themes leading each track. If anything, these traits might get some people a little lost in figuring out which track or passage they want to listen to next.
Andy McKee transcends the concept of virtuoso that is usually associated with technical proficiency. Yes, McKee’s music is enriched and riddled with technicalities such as singlehanded harmonics, tapping and percussion that will repeatedly impress you. But there simply is no usage of technicality here for the sake of being able to. Reminiscent of seldom legends such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, McKee expresses himself with exceptional ease and grace through his guitar. His qualities remind us that a virtuoso does not fully encompass someone with flawless technique, which can be studied and learned with time by most men. Rather, I would like to argue that being a virtuoso ultimately is a matter of the soul, heart, spirit or whatever you wish to call it. This is what makes one able to establish a connection through music with another human being instead of solely baffling fellow instrumentalists. This connection will be entirely different for each and every one of us, and that is why the “Art of Motion”, if you’re receptive to it, will provide an exclusively personal experience for you. Delving into lengthy descriptions of every track is thus rendered a futile approach to McKee’s music.
I wholeheartedly recommend “Art of Motion” to anyone that feels he or she has a passion for music, regardless of the favored genre. Whether you feel the need to relax, need some company at your boring desk job or are pondering about a gift for father’s day; this deserves to be heard by anyone and is fit for any occasion. Andy McKee is unquestionably one of the most gifted yet underappreciated artists of today and the sole thing that stands between this album and classic status is time and the recognition it truly deserves. Give it a chance and you will be surprised with what you’ll find.