Ken Totushek
EPK Pro

Ken Totushek

Barrington, Rhode Island, United States | Established. Jan 01, 1981 | INDIE

Barrington, Rhode Island, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 1981
Solo Folk Acoustic

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This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos

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"Barrington's Ken Totushek finds fulfillment in music and faith"

For Ken Totushek, the music can just happen — the right place, the right people and the guitar comes out and a connection is made.

In Japan, the Caribbean, at a school in the Middle East, in a Buddhist Temple or the Barrington Library, Totushek can bring his deeply personal spiritual music to the occasion.

“The music has to do with freedom, freedom from things that hold us back in life.”... - Providence Journal


"KEN TOTUSHEK--Sweet Devotion-heart CD, self-released (2005)"

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.
- Wind and Wire, By Bill Binkelman


"KEN TOTUSHEK Pilgrim Song CD, Graceworks Music (2001)"

Featuring the artist playing an assortment of acoustic guitars, as well as percussion, drums, bass and mandolin (and on one cut, synth strings), Ken Totushek's CD, Pilgrim Song, is a most pleasant and enjoyable way to spend seventy minutes. The songs on this album unwind at a leisurely pace, yet are also varied in emotional impact, musical approach and tempo; the "leisurely pace" is more indicative of a mellow vibe that seems to run through the recording - nothing here is designed to get your blood racing too fast. Whether he is playing just guitar (sometimes overdubbing two kinds of acoustic guitars on a single track - one part playing lead and the other harmony) or accompanying himself on drums, bass or percussion, he shows a deft touch with both his primary instrument and enough virtuosity on the others that I had to recheck the liner notes to make sure it was just him.

With seventy minutes of music spread over fifteen cuts, it's difficult to select favorites on this well-performed and friendly album. The opening track, "Bliss!," is a smooth easy-going beginning and is followed by the gently midtempo "Twilight Serenade" on which guitar and mandolin gracefully duet. Some of the ensemble pieces here may remind you of Jamie Bonk but they're a little less adult contemporary in feel and perhaps a little more Windham Hill-ish than the Canadian artist. Among the ensemble pieces, I like "Rebound," "Pressing On," and the jazzy "Higher Heights." I'm also a fan of "Questions," which is the track where he discretely uses synth strings to great effect in creating a more somber song than others here (the cut may bring to mind Eric Tingstad - it did for me).

All but three songs here are originals. The others include a relatively staid version of "Greensleeves" (here referred to by its other title, "What Child Is This?") and two numbers penned by Jay Steele: "April Breeze" and "Rivers of My Heart." The latter is a lovely delicate piece played on solo acoustic guitar and may be the most impressionistic cut on Pilgrim Song. The former begins with environmental sounds (birds, running water) and has a pastoral quasi-Renaissance feel to it (just a smidgen of ole England perhaps?).

The only misstep on the album comes on the final cut, " On Eagle's Wings," which is also the only vocal cut. There's nothing particularly bad about it, although I think Totushek is a much better guitarist than singer - he strains a bit to hit some notes. The lyrics are adapted from a passage in the Bible (Isaiah 40:31 per the liner notes), and I'll have to admit my anti-bias here (I'm not much for incorporating Biblical references in a contemporary vein). The song begins as rather low-key but the bridge section contains what may be the most rousing music on the album, which served to confuse me a bit and I found it ill-conceived, given the song's inspiration. However, since it's the last track and the song is not something I felt I had to hit the "skip" button during, I have no problem heartily recommending Pilgrim Song. After all, as I have stated many times before, it's the rare album that contains nothing but excellent tracks. If the only thing I can find to say bad about this CD is that I didn't like the last song, whereas the first fourteen tracks are all excellent acoustic guitar instrumentals, I would hope that lovers of guitar/small ensemble new acoustic/new age music will give this album some well-deserved attention.

(As a curious aside, this final track also contains an "inner" hidden song. About a minute after you think the track is over - at the 8:30 mark - a whole new musical theme is struck up - that of a uptempo rural bayou-like piece, full of good cheer, followed later by a sprightly mandolin section - neither of which, of course, bears no resemblance to the actual "song" itself, and also having no vocals. I'm not sure what prompted Totushek to do this sly bit of trickery; maybe it's just meant as a secret bonus or as a curiosity - but if you buy the CD, make sure you allow this last track to play even after you hear silence).

As a final sidenote, and without meaning to endorse it only from this perspective, Ken is donating proceeds from sales of this album to various relief efforts for victims of the September 11th attacks.

review by Bill Binkelman
- Wind and Wire, Bill Binkelman


Discography

6 albums to date--For the Rest of Your Life, ©1994; Pilgrim Song, ©2001; Sweet Devotion, ©2004, and Sweet Devotion--heart, ©2005; For the Rest of Your Life and Beyond, ©2010; Real Life Stuff--Hope's Alive, ©2013


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Bio

Acoustic guitar instrumentalist, singer and songwriter worship leader and hymnist, Ken Totushek--a musician with a mission...

In guitarist Ken Totusheks inspirational music one senses the uplifting, soulful, and relaxing flow of sweet sounds often whispering stories from his and others life experience. Kens 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, childrens music venues, community concerts and Fall Fairs, weddings, elderly and nursing home venues, as well as playing regularly abroad. Kens 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 continually studies the impact of various guitar construction effects on tone--differences such as shape and size, woods used, age, vintage guitars, specialty guitar builders (luthiers) of our day, strings, technique, etc. For Ken, any of these variables mentioned can evoke different moods, inspiration, and creativity.  Ken plays his own compositions, as well as those of others that he has arranged.  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. Ken sees whatever he does musically as a gift from God.  His hope and purpose in playing for and with others...ultimately is that the Giver of Gifts might be honored and glorified.  Ken's overarching theme has to do with real life stuff--love and success, truth and committment, heartbreak, loss, and grief.  He values highly his faith and his family.   Ken resides with his wife Kathy in Barrington, RI.

Band Members