An elegantly quirky goldmine of a record crossed my desk recently. The personnel caught my eye, since it was the legendary acoustic guitar slinger Leo Kottke paired with the prodigious bassist from Phish, Mike Gordon. I figured it would be at least interesting, but it sailed far and high beyond my measured expectations. Clone is a disc of mutual admiration and musical fraternity that translates as a funky and lyrical experience.
Musically speaking, it is a compositional gem, and showcases quite a few beautiful works, most composed for the occasion. But even beyond that, it demonstrates an iconoclastic duet of acoustic guitar and bass that bears special mention. The last time I heard a guitar and bass relationship that I found this interesting and exciting was the classic debut recording of Hot Tuna, where the symbiosis of Kaukonen and Cassady blew the minds of fingerpickers everywhere. Clone has a spirit of lighthearted camaraderie, but the musicianship runs deep. There is subtly virtuosic playing throughout.
One would hardly expect less from Leo Kottke, he's been at the forefront of acoustic guitar stylists since he first appeared on the scene around 1970. I remember learning "The Fisherman" and some other pieces off that Takoma record with the armadillo on the cover, 6 and 12 String Guitar, where the quote about his voice resembling geese farts on a muggy day first appeared. Wonder if he ever regretted saying that. I guess not, he seems like a very self-effacing and straight talking character. In fact, I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a phone interview as much. (On his website, you'll also find that he expounds at entertaining length about politics, culture, and modern life, we got a kick out of all that.)
30 years he's been recording, Leo has cut or appeared on more than that
number of records. His own number an impressive 25. That's a lot of great
guitar music. And I daresay this latest project with Mike Gordon will
attract legions of new fans, as the duo will play a dozen shows supporting
this release (dates are posted at leokottke.com). If you've heard of him
forever, but haven't heard him lately, please be sure to sample some clips
on the Listen page.