Tranquill, healing, meditative solo fingerstyle acoustic guitar instrumental interpretations of familiar traditional sacred hymns and a few original compositions. The music on "Sweet Devotion--heart" is very warm and spiritually uplifting.
Acoustic guitar instrumentalist, singer and songwriter, Ken Totushek-a musician with a mission...
In guitarist Ken Totushek's inspirational music one senses the uplifting, soulful, and relaxing flow of sweet sounds often whispering stories from his and others' life experience. Ken's music is down to earth, inviting, and tends to capture the heart of the listener as he leads one through a calming musical journey. His audience has varied greatly over the years, and includes churches, worship and praise events, children's music venues, community concerts and Fall Fairs, weddings, Elderly and Nursing home venues, as well as playing in other countries. Ken's music has always been well received, and for that he is grateful. "It has been my experience that in music, mankind has clearly been blessed with a truly universal language."
Ken has been playing guitar since the age of 12, and has studied in more recent years the impact of various guitar construction effects on tone-things such as shape and size, woods used, age, specialty guitar builders (luthiers) of our day, strings, technique, etc. For Ken, any of these variables mentioned can evoke different moods, inspiration, and creativity-"it's incredibly fascinating to me, and seems to have become a lifetime journey exploring daily new depths of musical discovery!" Ken plays his own compositions, as well as those of others that he has arranged. It is not unusual to see Ken with at least 2-3 of his favorite guitars accompany him on stage-each with their own unique qualities and tonal nuggets just waiting to resonate. He does all of his recording, as well as that of others, at Graceworks Recording, his 24 track digital, project recording studio.
Of prime importance to Ken, is that the spiritual element woven throughout his music would resonate clearly-and it does. "I believe whatever I do musically is a gift from God, and so whenever I play, I feel I am just giving back to Him that which He has graciously given me. It blesses and inspires me immensely. If there are others around to play for, so much the better, perhaps they might receive some blessing that transcends the physical as well. That is my hope and purpose in playing for and with others...ultimately that the 'Giver of Gifts' may be honored and glorified."
Ken has recorded and released 4 albums to date--For the Rest of Your Life, ©1994; Pilgrim Song, ©2001; Sweet Devotion, ©2004, and Sweet Devotion--heart, ©2005. He frequently provides special music and is a praise and worship leader at Barrington Baptist Church, Barrington, RI. He engineers and produces his own CDs, and occasionally those of others. Ken has performed in various parts of the country, and occasionally abroad. For more information and news on new work, visit http://www.kentotushek.com or email Ken at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wind and Wire
R E V I E W
review by Bill Binkelman
Ken Totushek's album, Sweet Devotion, is a collection of acoustic guitar arrangements of hymns and spirituals as well as two originals by the artist. However, before you think this is "religious" music, please take the word of an agnostic music reviewer (a lapsed Catholic if you want to know the truth). These really are sublime and soul-warming instrumentals (there is no singing on this CD, although I think there is a vocal version of this album available). You'd have to have a heart of stone to not be comforted by Totushek's gentle and soothing way with these songs, as they gently unfurl with patience and unabashed open-hearted love. Sounds mushy, right? Not a chance, partner. Low-key, yes; easy to relax to, yes; soothing to the troubled heart, yes - but never ever sappy or saccharine-drenched. Heck, you'd be hard-pressed to identify these tunes (except for the always enjoyable "Amazing Grace" and "The Water is Wide"). For someone like me, who hasn't sang a hymn in who knows how long, pieces like the opening "Thou Art Worthy" and its follow-up, "My Jesus, I Love Thee" stand the test as simple unadorned solo acoustic guitar songs that speak simply yet soulfully. Totushek worked out the guitar arrangements on his own - kudos to him - and his playing alone qualifies as pure pleasure.
There's the sunny "Give Me Jesus" (an African-American spiritual) which gets a Windham Hill-ish treatment, graced by careful nuance, and "I Surrender All" presents an interesting halted rhythm to the artist's playing. "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" showcases Totushek's way with pealing hits notes away slowly at first and then picking up a gradual head of steam, intermixing picking and strumming until a nice steady but slow burn is achieved. Turning his ear across the ocean, Totushek includes an Irish folk tune, "Be Thou My Vision" which sparkles and has a carefree feel to it.
One "glitch" (barely worth mentioning) was that the track listing is mis-printed (for those that buy the CD). Track 8 (listed as "The Water Is Wide") is actually "The Word/Amazing Grace" (which according to liner notes is track 9). Hey, no one's perfect, and both tracks are excellent renditions of these traditional favorites.
Totushek closes out the album with his two originals. "Christmas In The Air" (a rather sprightly tune, when contrasted with the rest of the album), and the opus-length (nearly fourteen-minutes) "Jesus, My Redeeemer" (a "four-part" suite which musically depicts four stages in Jesus Christ's life). Some of this gets pretty darn intense, almost Michael Hedges-like in the energy and "oomph" that Totushek puts into the music.
As I have done before with other artists, it is worth mentioning that the artist is donating profits from the sale of Sweet Devotion to a charitable cause (a local shelter in Providence, Rhode Island). You're free to ascribe whatever you want to to the religious aspect of this recording. Ken Totushek makes no apologies for his devout faith and I say more power to him! But make no mistake, I don't endorse this album because of this, nor do I dismiss it. for the same reason. My job is music critic, pure and simple. This guy can flat out play guitar, folks. And since there is no way you can attach any overt spiritual significance to music without lyrics, you are safe in indulging in this excellent recording no matter what your religious afiiliations are, as far as as I can tell. However, I do think that the artist has poured a lot of love and kindness into the virtual grooves on this CD and, after all, who can't use a little of that in their lives, huh? As far as this agnostic reviewer is concerned, the album gets a big thumbs up and a pat on the back as well for donating the profits to charity.
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