|Variety, February 17, 1988|
Michael Hedges/Leo Kotke [sic]
Tenn. Performing Arts Center; Nashville
Windham Hill guitarist Michael Hedges pleased New Age fans in a well-filled Jackson Hall solo performance Feb. 7.
Working acoustic guitars and a twin-necked speciality instrument called a harp guitar to their most percussive advantage, Hedges was anything but the laidback soozer as is the deserved perception of much New Age artistry. Pouring himself into his set, he was animated with an almost hard-rock visceral spirit.
Hedges opened singing The Who's "Pinball Wizard" and a couple of numbers later later vocalized his own flaccid lyrics in a tune called "Woman of the World," but a singer he is not. His niche is in pushing modal tunings to textural portraits of often abstruse emotional conditions and situations of youth, such as an imaginary first deep dive in a submarine and the numbing mental conditions of late-night study.
One might argue that Joni Mitchell long ago wrung the commecial pop potential out of open chord tunings, and then some, but Hedge's [sic] acoustic instrumentals are taking modality into ranges that, when successful, represent vital abstract impressionism in the aural realm.
Self-taught guitarist Leo Kotke [sic] was a semi-regular on the popular "Prairie Home Companion" radio program, and has found a new audience in the New Age crowd. His personal warmth comes through in gentle, self-deprecating humor, but his music is a cluttered bag of unrefined experiments in open-E tuning. Kotke's [sic] compositions often start with a catchy blues-flavored riffs [sic], but invariably clabber around the kind of noodling dead ends that a less self-indulgent composer/player would have discarded. Kotke [sic] also sings, with feeling if not accomplishment. Nonetheless, Kotke [sic] is a cult figure whose audiences practically are reverential of his unorthodox musical vision -- Mill.
[A note from me on this review...]
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