Connie's Insider (October 1971)

Blues & Folk Marathon Program

Tuesday, Sept. 21, 1971
Memorial Stadium, U of M, Minneapolis
Featuring:  Fred McDowell, Harmonica George Smith, Leo Kottke,
Doc Watson & Son, Charles Musselwhite

[Excerpt from Leo Kottke section]

Uncredited Photo

      From 1965 until about eighteen months ago, Mike Justin operated the Scholar Coffeehouse at its third location in Minneapolis' West Bank - seven corners district.  At that time, the Scholar held the distinction of being the oldest and one of the better known coffeehouses in the United States. It was also the place where a small, dedicated group of folk music buffs would religiously pay as little as seventy-five cents every other weekend or so to spend an evening with their favorite guitarist and itinerant storyteller, Leo Kottke.

      While the financial fortunes of the coffeehouse took a turn for the worse and led to its temporary closing, Kottke's fortunes have been going anywhere but downward.  A steady stream of records and personal appearances over the last two years have place him well on the road to unprecedented national popularity and almost universal acclaim.  

      The main reasons for this success are Kottke's unequalled ability on the twelve string guitar and his ability to maintain a high standard of artistic integrity while still writing extremely appealing music.

      He is prolific, too.  One well known Kottke freak has estimated his repertoire or original songs at over three hundred.  His style is original and easily recognizable.  He combines incredibly rich tone quality with often frantic, banjo style guitar picking, sometimes extending a raspy, but relaxed vocal over the whole thing.  He also has an uncanny ability to lazily stretch an instrumental melody line over any number of bars on some of his less frantic pieces.  His chord changes are totally unpredictable.

      Kottke considers Appalachian country guitar and banjo pickers his chief influences.  He also feels he has picked up country blues influences indirectly through guitarist-musicologist John Fahey.

      Leo Kottke has released four albums.  His 1969 album, "12 String Blues," (Oblivion S-1), was recorded live at the Scholar.  This relatively unpolished effort is a collectors item and no longer available at retail prices.  Some of the favorites were "If Momma Know," [sic] "Sweet Louise," "Circle 'Round the Sun," "Easter in the Sargasso Sea," and several Fahey and Seeger instrumentals.

      Kottke's second album is on John Fahey's Takoma label, which is nationally distributed and led to the guitarist's achieving a large measure of acclaim on the west coast.  The all instrumental "6 and 12 String Guitar," (Takoma C-1024), contains, among others, "The Driving of the Year Nail," "Vaseline Machine Gun," and was released in December, 1969.

      "Circle 'round the Sun," (Symposium SY-2001), is a 1970 re-release of most of the songs on Oblivion S-1.  Missing are several instrumentals.  "Tell me this ain't the Blues," and "Tell me, Mama,"  are the previously unrecorded songs on the album.   The former was inspired, according to Kottke, by a country western band playing in what used to be the Blue Blazer in St. Cloud.

      Kottke's latest album is "Mudlark," (Capitol ST-682).  He uses sidemen for the first time on this album, and for the most part the experiment is successful.  Besides such virtuoso instrumentals as "Junebug" and "The Ice Miner," "Mudlark" contains what could well be the definitive version of Jim McGuinn's "Eight Miles High."

      Continuing favorable reviews in national publications and successful concert dates in such halls as Carnegie give every indication that Kottke's artistic success and continuing popularity are assured.  Hopefully,  such success will not put his appearances in more intimate coffeehouses and clubs to an end.  -- Tom Murtha.

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