|Melody Maker, July 26, 1980|
Record Review: Live In Europe
Solo albums of acoustic guitar are far from voguish these days, but listening to Leo Kottke's third Chrysalis album, you wonder why there's not more of an audience for this fine genre.
These nine tracks were taped on a Continental tour last year, with the American musician picking his way adroitly on the six and 12-string instruments. Although he builds to some whirlwind climaxes and can take of at vertiginous tempos, the overall feel is of gentleness and introversion.
Kottke is a perennial award winner for his manifest technical achievements. He used to base his style on Southern Appalachian performers, but he's considerably more eclectic than that here. What does remain from the folk background is that locked-in involvement in which man and strings seem one.
He has built a vibrato-thick style that is totally individualistic. He wrings out warm tone and vibrant resonances. Although he's in a "bag" with Bert Jansch and Davey Graham, he doesn't sound like either. Kottke conveys a spirit of modest self-effacement, which may account for his cult, rather than mass, following.
He's written all the tunes, except for Norman Petty's strutty march-tempo "Wheels," and John McLaughlin's "Open Country Joy," which he proceeds to make his own with variations. The only vocal -- in a bland but earnest voice, is "Tell Mary," which was on his last album Balance.
I frankly preferred Balance to [t]his outing, for it had a tight rhythm backing, was produced by Kenny Buttrey and included more vocals. Live in Europe is certainly not for every taste. Although he's got technique to burn, Kottke is not essentially a showman. This is lamplight music, for quiet corners. What's the antithesis of heavy metal? Light nylon? -- Robert Shelton
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