Andy McKee brings lesson in restrained virtuosity to the Bottleneck

Guitar virtuoso Andy McKee plays Friday, Jan. 6, at the Bottleneck.
Guitar virtuoso Andy McKee plays Friday, Jan. 6, at the Bottleneck.

An illustration on the home page of Andy McKee’s website depicts the guitarist as a blissed-out, five-armed marvel. His fans might suggest that the cartoonish drawing is too restrained. McKee often sounds as if he has eight arms.

The native of Topeka placed third at the 2001 edition of the National Fingerstyle Guitar Championships in Winfield, Kan. He has since become one of the world’s most acclaimed acoustic instrumentalists.

In addition to recording with guitar hero Lee Ritenour and pop star Josh Groban, McKee enjoyed an unlikely and slightly discordant collaboration with Prince in 2012.

The late icon designed a stage costume for the unassuming McKee that included a 50-foot-long cape. McKee demurred, telling Prince that “I’m from Kansas — we don’t even have regular-sized capes there.”

Prince encountered McKee through a YouTube video in which McKee played his lovely original composition “Rylynn.” As with most of McKee’s work, the dazzlingly fleet fingers and complex rhythmic facility displayed on “Rylynn” isn’t gratuitously flashy.

Tasteful and mellow, McKee often sounds as if he’s performing instrumental versions of James Taylor’s hits. McKee has suggested that “I write instrumental music to say things I don’t have words for.”

Friday’s show at the Bottleneck, consequently, will attract an adoring mix of guitar enthusiasts and fans who simply appreciate contemplatively beautiful music.

Tickets to the Friday performance at the Bottleneck are $20 in advance at

Concert previews by Bill Brownlee, Special to Ink