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Leo Kottke: A Virtuoso is Everyone's Reward

  • Jul 6, 2009
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It must have been early 1970. I was driving down 120th Street between Crenshaw and Van Ness in Los Angeles on my way home from school (Loyola Marymount University) and listening to what at the time we affectionately referred to as “FM radio.” Suddenly through the speakers in my car came some lighteningly fast fingerpicked acoustic guitar. My initial thought was, “Who is that? It sounds like John Fahey on amphetamines.” But, it wasn’t Fahey on drugs, it was Leo Kottke. And the songs were from his now legendary “Armadillo” album (“6 & 12 String Guitar" released in 1969 on Fahey’s Tacoma label). Leo is one of those performers who sound better live than on record which is testament to his mind-boggling acoustic guitar virtuosity in performance. His rambling disconnected monologues between songs are legendary too. He says people in the audience sometimes say “Leo, we came to hear you play, not to talk.” So, here are my top 10 favorite instrumental Leo Kottke tunes (in no particular order):
  • June Bug (… a great showcase for his slide playing. In performance, he sometimes plays it as part of a medley of songs in open G tuning including Available space, Train and the gate, Vaseline machine gun, and Jack fig)
  • Ojo
  • Jack fig (… this one seems to be a favorite of Kottke’s – he’s referred to it as his “doppleganger” and he often closes concerts with it)
  • Eggtooth (… the arrangement he’s been playing live for several years)
  • Air proofing two
  • Theme from the Rick and Bob Report
  • William Powell (… my favorite acoustic guitar instrumental of all time)
  • Mona Ray
  • Oddball
  • Morning is the long way home
Note: I only included instrumentals! Leo’s baritone voice (described on the liner notes for the all instrumental “6 & 12 String Guitar” as “geese farts on a muggy day”) is an acquired taste, but try Pamela Brown, Room at the top of the stairs, Eight miles high, and Rings for examples of some of Leo’s vocals.
Leo Kottke: A Virtuoso is Everyone's Reward

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Steve DiBartola ()
Ranked #152
I was invited to join Lunch by one of the developers, who apparently read some reviews I posted on Library Thing. My interests are books, music, and movies. I enjoy both classical and contemporary fiction, … more
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