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Michael Kelsey
The Way it Rolls
H Note Records

From the depth of sound on his fifth album, The Way It Rolls, you'd never guess that Michael Kelsey is pretty much a solo act. According to Kelsey, there is a five-piece band in his head, and their only escape is through his hands and fingers as they pick and gallop, slap and strum on his acoustic guitar. Little wonder that Kelsey was the 2004 winner of Guitar Center's "Guitarmaggedon" search for the nation's best unsigned guitarist; his unique, fearless experimental style definitely puts him in the same category as other greats like Steve Vai and Michael Hedges. But to call Kelsey a guitarist is to do a disservice not only to his skillful playing, but to his powerful and soulful voice.

The title track is a short little ditty about taking life as it comes that quickly gallops the listener deep into Kelsey territory before you have a chance to try slapping a label on what you're hearing. Rock? Country? Blues? Kelsey calls what he does "progressive- aggressive acoustic guitar," and it seems as good a title as any. The album fuses together well, the songs creating an overall experience that defies their separation into tracks -- "Slow Movin' Train" is thick and smoky and steady, but even as the train slows to a halt it spills naturally into "Old Guitar," a song that churns up to an intense crescendo before drifting into "Hey Elaine," a sexy little last call of a ballad. There are a few surprises in the mix, such as the instrumental "Wanderlust" and a comedic spoken-word piece called "A Bus In Motion," but for the most part the entire Kelsey experience is a single unbroken tapestry of guitar and voice, individual acts woven deftly into a single storyline like a Cirque du Soleil performance.

Favorite Track: "Keeper of the Key"

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Michael Fiegel is a freelance writer and graphic designer. His diverse background includes journalism, radio copywriting, technical writing, game design and music reviewing. He is best known as the creator of the Internet cult sensation, Ninja Burger. He can be reached at or at his website,

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