According to Chet Atkins, Pat Donohue is "one of the greatest fingerpickers in the world." Any praise that could be given to a guitar player seems insignificant next to such a statement, but Donohue's work warrants even more acclaim. He was named the 1983 National Fingerpicking Guitar Champion, and continues to garner recognition as an exceptional musician and entertainer. Fans of National Public Radio's A Prairie Home Companion have been treated to the fingerpicked guitar work of Pat Donohue for years, whether they know it or not. Donohue started appearing as a guest performer in the '80s and has been a regular member of the show's house band since 1993.
The full range of Donohue's talents, however, are evident on his recorded works, which blend folk, jazz, blues, ragtime, and boogie woogie. After recording Manhattan to Memphis and Pat Donohue for Red House Records, Donohue founded his own label: BlueSky Records. In 1991, he released Life Stories and an album of jazz and instrumental standards, Two Hand Band followed two years later. Donohue shifted gears with Big Blind Bluesy, a collection of classic country blues from the likes of Blind Blake and Big Bill Broonzy, as well as Donohue originals. Atkins appears on 1996's Backroads, which features solo and full-band performances of Donohue-penned songs. American Guitar showcases Donohue's ability as a solo performer and includes more of his own songs, as well as his arrangements of traditional American pieces such as "Maple Leaf Rag" and "the Star Spangled Banner."
Donohue travels extensively for A Prairie Home Companion and, in addition to his solo concert performances, he conducts numerous group workshops for guitar players across the U.S.
"Donohue' s genre-bending approach fuses the right-hand Piedmont fingerstyle of Blind Blake and Blind Boy Fuller with the harmonic vocabulary and improvising spirit of Charlie Christian and Wes Montgomery." – Guitar Player Magazine
The overall theme of these lessons is to show the roots of Classic Jazz using archival footage; how to arrange a jazz composition and then how to improvise around the arrangement using various techniques. Pat Donohue is a master of fingerstyle jazz guitar. He describes in detail his arrangements as well as how to improvise upon the tunes.
The second lesson presents three more arrangements: Ain't Misbehavin', Georgia On My Mind and Big Blind Bluesy. Archival footage is included that features a 1941 film of Fats Waller performing Ain't Misbehavin' and Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson playing a piano boogie duet from 1942.
78 minutes • Level 3 • Detailed tab/music PDF file on the DVD
Review: What a great treat these videos are! Pat Donahue is a new name to me. It’s refreshing to see someone interested in pre-war jazz, with the ability to approach these tunes in a modern manner, yet with respect for the originals.
Volume 1 begins with a clip of the Ellington band from 1943 performing “Stormy Weather” with an Ivie Anderson vocal and a glimpse of Fred Guy on guitar. After the video, Donahue plays his version of the tune, then spends considerable time explaining in great detail to the viewer how he approaches and arranges the tune. Above all, it’s important that what he plays sounds good a change from a lot of guitarists today. “Stormy Weather” is followed by “St. Louis Blues” by Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong’s “You Rascal You.”
In each case, Donahue’s treatment of the song is musical and technically daring. Volume 2 is more of the same with a 1941 clip of Fats Waller and a 1942 clip of boogie woogie greats Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson. Donahue’s version of the boogie woogie tune “Big Band Bluesy” is awesome His technique is fun to watch and when he explains how he does it, even a budding finger picker like me can get it. These two videos together are fun and educational. If you buy them, you won’t be disappointed. – Just Jazz Guitar