Sunday, April 15, 2012

Leo Kottke, Folk Music, and Acoustic Guitars.

Turbo Folk

Though Six and Twelve String Guitarwas not the first recorded album by Leo Kottke, it was certainly my introduction to him, and the album that put him on the forefront of everyone's mind who played guitar or was interested in that kind of music. Some folks call it folk music, and folk music it is, but the music of Leo Kottke is more like folk music on amphetamines or psychedelics. I've read it described asTurbo Folk, and that description works very well for it too.
Six and Twelve String Guitar, also widely known as "the armadillo album" combined elements of the strange and the absolutely beautiful. The very names of the songs on the album let you know what the song will be like. Musical giants like J.S. Bach are covered with Jesu, Joy Of Man's Desiring, beautiful "Travis style" picking tunes are evident, and are very traditional in their sound, like The Fisherman - and then there's Vaseline Machine Gun. Maybe "folk music on steroids" is an apt enough descriptor too.
Kottke's most famous album still, Six and Twelve String Guitar was entirely instrumental, but Leo Kottke sings in a nice baritone style too sometimes, but the famous description and apology for his voice is in the notes inside the album, he described it as follows:
"sounds like geese farts on a muggy day."

Six And Twelve String Guitar - by Leo Kottke

The Fisherman, By Leo Kottke

6 & 12 String Guitar
Amazon Price: $9.81
List Price: $14.98
6- And 12-String Guitar
Amazon Price: $9.49
Amazon Price: $16.82
List Price: $21.98
One Guitar, No Vocals
Amazon Price: $6.27
List Price: $8.99
Amazon Price: $11.06
List Price: $18.98
The Essential Leo Kottke Collection
Amazon Price: $9.49

Fingerpicking on Steel String Guitars.

Now playing folk tunes, classical tunes, and extremely creative tunes fingerstyle on an acoustic steel string guitar wasn't really anything new, people like Doc and Merle Watson, Merle Travis, and virtually every Piedmont Bluesman had been doing these things. Using a slide was also something that wasn't unique, what was unique was the sheer energy that Leo Kottke brought to his music.
Despite all of the guitar virtuosity that Leo Kottke routinely displays, his showmanship is what I find the most appealing about him as a person. The man is hilarious, and had he not become on of the world's finest folk musicians and guitarist - he'd of made a great comedian. I've had the pleasure of seeing Leo Kottke perform live, and I tell you the truth - the man breaks up his shows with stories about things that can leave an audience in tears from the laughter of it all - then he'll play something so beautiful as to be breath taking.

Leo Kottke Monologue.

Leo Kottke - Persevering Through Hearing and Health Issues.

It's perhaps unlikely that Leo Kottke ever became a musician at all. A childhood injury involving a firecracker had permanently damaged one of his ears, and his hearing problems increased further after a stint in the United States Navy - think big guns, and firing practice.
The energy of Kottke's fingerstyle guitar playing is evident, and by 1980 he'd developed tendinitis in his right hand; and this forced him to adopt and adapt to an entirely new technique for picking.

Leo Kottke and Taylor Guitars.

Leo Kottke, despite his health problems related to tendinitis in his hands, never stopped playing, but he had stopped playing twelve string guitars because with six additional strings - a twelve stringed instrument is just that much harder to play, and more aggravating to tendinitis. But Leo had found a Taylor instrument that he could play in a twelve string model - because of the ease with which that guitar could be played in his style.
Soon, Bob Taylor and Leo Kottle formed a working relationship, and Kottke had remarked that Bob was one of the few people that he'd ever met who could and would talk about guitars as much as he would. Kottke's style is different than most others, and so his guitars, and guitars built to his liking must also be different. Soon, there was a Leo Kottke Signature Model twelve string guitar by the Taylor Guitar Company - a guitar built to Leo Kottke's personal specifications. This is a mahogany body instrument with a spruce top and rosewood binding - the guitar is all solid wood construction, but is braced very lightly, which makes this guitar a more fragile instrument than most twelve string guitars. The guitar is lightly braced because Leo Kottke most often plays his guitars de tuned - meaning that he tunes his instruments flat, with lesser tension on the strings than standard pitch tuning.
There is also a Taylor Leo Kottke Signature six string guitar - which is the same instrument but the six string is NOT as lightly braced, and is built to be tuned to standard 440 pitch in standard tuning.
I'm pricing these outstanding guitars at between $2,300.00 to $3,300.00. I'd say that you've no room or chance at haggling the price at twenty three hundred bucks, but should you find one priced over three grand - then there's a great chance that the seller will come off of the price a bit.
I hope everyone has either been introduced to the outstanding music of Leo Kottke, or has some favorite songs and vid links to share with me in the comments - there's so much music out there, and so little time!

Little Martha - Leo Kottke's Interpretation.


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