Leo Kottke

Another heir to alternative guitar tradition pioneered by John Fahey, Leo Kottke has the double honour of being both one of the masters of the twelve-string guitar (he also plays six string) and a major influence on the development of new acoustic ambience embodied by labels such as Windham Hill.

artist:
Leo Kottke

country of origin:
USA

style(s):
New acoustic, instrumental folk, blues

decade active:
70's - 00's

essential releases:

  • Six And Twelve String Guitar (1971, Takoma)
  • My Feet Are Smiling (1973, One Way)
  • Leo Kottke (1976, Chrysalis)
  • A Shout Toward Noon (1986, Private Music)
  • Regards From Chuck Pink (1988, Private Music)
  • The Essential Leo Kottke (1991, Chrysalis)

Reviewed by Mike G

Another heir to alternative guitar tradition pioneered by John Fahey, Leo Kottke has the double honour of being both one of the masters of the twelve-string guitar (he also plays six string) and a major influence on the development of new acoustic ambience embodied by labels such as Windham Hill Records. His deadpan vocals also appear in his music on occasion, but it’s undoubtedly as an instrumentalist that Kottke has made his mark.

So many aspects of his playing exude greatness; his quirky, dynamic rhythms, his effortless blending of full-bodied chords with individual notes, and his unerring command of techniques like slide and harmonic playing. He also displays an eccentric, occasionally perverse taste for the unexpected.

Kottke has released many albums since the early 1970's and those listed above are all consistently fine - by turns moody, exuberant, humorous and achingly beautiful. Most of these recordings capture him either solo or with minimum accompaniment, generally his best format. Occasionally ensemble support has featured more prominently on his albums, among the best of those being the all-instrumental Leo Kottke (1976). Here the guitarist plays his distinctive melange of blues, jazz, American folk and Windham Hill-style impressionism with back-up from an orchestra and a revolving cast of musicians, and his striking versatility is evident throughout. The Essential Leo Kottke (1991) is an excellent summery of his patchy years with Chrysalis (1976-83), a period mostly not covered by the other albums listed here.

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