Ken Nicol is an exceptional musician. As a guitarist, he is one of the most skilled and exciting players anywhere today; as a singer he is capable of evoking wide range of emotions in his audience; and as a songwriter he demonstrates these abilities in his clever and well-crafted material.
His music covers the spectrum from blues to rock, effortlessly taking in folk, jazz, ragtime, ballads and more along the way.
Born in Preston UK, Ken started playing the regional club circuit where his talents were soon recognised.
In the early seventies he formed the band ‘Nicol & Marsh’s Easy Street’ with Pete Marsh, and it wasn’t long before they landed their first major record contract.
They went on to produce four albums to widespread acclaim on the CBS and Polydor labels, the last one being recorded in Los Angeles.
This prompted Ken to make his home in the US where he played gigs as a solo acoustic performer, and as lead singer and co-songwriter for the band ‘Versailles’.
Ken returned to the UK from LA in 1989, and once again began working the club circuit as a solo performer, going on to produce the albums: “Living in a Spanish Town”, “Two Frets from the Blues”, “Clean Feet – No Shoes”, “The Bridge”, and more recently: “Thirteen Reasons”, all released on his own M.V.S label.
In 1997 Ken joined The Albion Band as lead guitarist and singer, writing much of the band’s material himself and co-writing with Ashley Hutchings. They produced four albums in this time: “Happy Accident”, Before Us Stands Yesterday”, “The Christmas Album” and “Road Movies” on the Topic record label.
In December 2002, he successfully joined forces with the legendary folk-rockers Steeleye Span on their UK ‘Reunion Tour’, and due to its great success, his collaboration with the band continued for a further seven years.
2004 saw the release of two albums: ‘They Called Her Babylon’ and ‘Winter.
His third collaboration with the band: ‘Bloody Men’ was released in 2006, and the most recent: ‘Cogs, Wheels and Lovers’ in 2009.
2009 proved to be an extremely busy time with Steeleye. The band celebrated their 40th year in the business; as well as the UK Spring Tour (April/May), the band also visited the USA in September for six dates, then flew on to Australia for a further eight concerts before finishing their anniversary year with a ‘Winter Tour’ – again in the UK through the months of November and December.
Deciding to take full advantage of his trip ‘down under’ with Steeleye, Ken immediately followed the Australian leg with a string of solo performances beginning in Perth, and continuing across the North and South islands of New Zealand during October and November.
Ken continues to write, record and tour as a solo artist; his latest album – Initial Variations (reviews below) is completely instrumental, and was released in 2008.
“Formidable and painstakingly acquired skills on both acoustic and electric guitars, a very high class player indeed. Flexible too. He seems comfortable with whatever style is tossed at him.”
“I first met Ken when we collaborated on an Ashley Hutchings song on his last album. I was amazed at Ken’s beautiful ragtime guitar style.
He has such a great way of delivering a story and gently laying down the punch line.
Humour, great guitar skill and the right drop of humility, and a passion for right, proper, good music.”
“Ken Nicol is a consummate musician. A guitarist of broad scope, a sensitive singer and an intelligent writer of songs with stirring melodies. A musical paragon.”
“It’s difficult for me to imagine a more talented all rounder than Ken; both as singer and guitarist.”
Clive Pownceby (BBC Radio Two website – June 2004)
Reviews of Initial Variations
Acoustic Magazine: The musicianship is staggering, seldom are the compositions less than inspired.
Living Tradition: I would urge even listeners who wouldn’t normally subject themselves to an entire album of instrumentals to give this one a bash. . . KN at his best – roller coasters of musical virtuosity that spellbind . . .
Rock ‘n’ Reel: Some of the later pieces demonstrate Ken’s digital dexterity to particularly good effect . . . best of all is his avoidance of any accusation of noodling. These are well crafted melodies . . .
Stirrings: Ken plays with great virtuosity and sensitivity, and recording and production values are excellent. Recommended.
Net Rhythms: a brilliant sequence of ten finely-etched and well-contrasted instrumental pieces . . . a CD that will be a must for guitar aficionados, but its appeal is definitely more wide-ranging; there’s intelligent and beautiful music here to suit all moods and tastes. Exquisitely crafted and melodically rich; deftly and stylishly played; and of course expertly recorded.
A lovely record.
Record Collector: Guitar players will appreciate his masterclass style, while more general listeners will be aware that his gift for melody carries the album higher than the rest.