|Rolling Stone (October 29, 1970)|
Record Review: 6 and 12 String Guitar
With all the shit that has been released recently, it was a distinct pleasure to come across this album. No doubt you won't be able to find it in your local record store, but any hardships you must endure to obtain a copy are well worth the pure enjoyment this album provides. If all else fails, write direclty to Takoma Records, P.O. Box 5403, Santa Monica, Ca 90405.
Kottke isn't a new addition to the Page-Beck school of grating, hypertensive guitarists, as if you were expecting that. He's an acoustic guitarist from Minneapolis whose music can invoke your most subliminal reflections or transmit you to the highest reaches of joy. "Vaseline Machine Gun" is an example of the latter quality. Beginning with a bottleneck version of "Taps," the piece develops into a tour de force which is guaranteed to relieve any doldrums you might have. "Crow River Waltz" exemplifies the former, its serene passages conjuring up images of a peaceful evening around a fireplace or campfire with the flames licking the logs.
There are no other instruments on the album nor are there any vocals because, as Kottke says in his liner notes, his voice sounds like geese farts on a muggy day. Besides, anything in addition to his guitar would be superfluous. This isn't to say the music is simple. A listen to the opening track, "The Driving of the Year Nail," will dispel that notion. It's just that any augmentation would tend to muddy up the full impact.
It's only natural to want to compare his style with that of John Fahey. Kottke's more tranquil passages are similar, but his fingerpicking is more intricate and inventive; he radiates energy, whereas Fahey is more subtle. Add Kottke's creative use of the bottleneck on four of the tracks, and it can be seen that he is a further extension of the Fahey school.
With a technique as brilliant as Kottke's, one can easily become engrossed in just this aspect of his music, but as with all good music, it is the emotional projection which gives it its essence. However, if the music itself isn't enough to make you buy the record, then buy it to be the first one of your block with the only black and white album cover picturing an armadillo and an ant. What more could you ask for? -- Carl Brauer
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