21 solo album releases, beginning with 1969’s 12-String Blues. 2 albums with Phish bassist Mike Gordon. 4 live albums and numerous compilations. This is the recorded work of innovative acoustic guitarist Leo Kottke, who appears at the Avalon this Saturday evening for a highly anticipated return to Easton.
Kottke almost immediately became an acoustic guitar hero with the release of his second album, 6- & 12-String Guitar (commonly referred to as the “Armadillo album”, due to its cover artwork) His finger picking style and syncopated, polyphonic melodies sounded unlike almost anything else on the current music scene, which won the guitarist legions of crossover fans from the folk, blues, jazz, and rock genres.
Kottke’s playing technique was so painstakingly original that he had to overcome a nearly career-ending bout with tendon damage in his right hand. By the early 1980s, his vigorous and aggressive picking style (particularly on the 12-string) forced him to change his picking style to a classical style, using the flesh of his fingertips and increasingly small amounts of fingernail rather than finger picks. It’s also interesting to note that the guitar virtuoso has permanent hearing damage in both ears, due to unrelated incidents.
Still, despite physical setbacks and battles with label heads at Capitol who insisted he sing (he famously described his own voice in liner notes as “geese farts on a muggy day”), Kottke flourished during the 70’s – the decade where he dominated on acoustic guitar and released a slew of solid albums that almost any vinyl-head from that decade will still have in his or her collection.
While his rigorous touring schedule and album output have slowed to a more humanly-capable pace, the 65-yr old is still keeping things fresh. His collaborations with Phish bassist Mike Gordon, Clone and Sixty Six Steps, caught audiences’ attention in 2002 and 2005, respectively.
And now he’s touring solo again, mixing highly entertaining and comical tales from his years of travel and experience, into an acoustic guitar showdown that continues to leave audiences dazed. Whether you cherish your old Kottke vinyl, are primarily a fan of his post 90’s work, or are just a fan of the artistry of a musician who has mastered his instrument, Leo Kottke’s concert at the Avalon Saturday evening is as close to a musical “sure thing” as one can get.
Saturday, May 14 – 8pm. $35
Avalon Theatre – Easton, MD
Box Office: 410.822.7299