’66 Steps’ a unique album
The second collaboration between Leo Kottke and Mike Gordon captures the quirky, humorous style of their first effort together.Although their first release, “Clone,” cannot be bested, this album is excellent. Those not familiar with Kottke’s solo material or his work with Gordon need to give this a listen. It is musically brilliant and represents some of the more original sounding music out there. Recorded in Nassau, Bahamas, the album uses offbeat island percussion and rhythms on many of the tracks. Kottke is a virtuoso solo guitarist at heart, having nearly created his own genre of steel-string acoustic guitar instrumentals over the past 30-plus years. Adding the rhythm section with bassist Gordon and percussionist Neil Symonette works well to compliment Kottke’s fingerstyle-based guitar. It allows him more freedom, not having to constantly keep up bass lines underneath the melody, as he does exquisitely on solo records. Kottke and Gordon have similar musical personalities. They are drawn toward the unusual and share a playful style, allowing them to connect. Gordon seems to push Kottke in other directions, bringing some of his own compositions and laying down smooth vocals on a few tracks.Bouyant, energetic rhythms keep the album lively, and there are some interesting covers along with the untouchably unique original works. A rendition of Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” uses understated, almost deadpan vocals, sounding nothing like the original.They also play an awesome version of the Phish song “Ya Mar.” It sounds like Kottke plays the chord progression on an electric guitar with a wah-wah pedal, which almost gave me a heart attack given his undying devotion to the acoustic guitar and unique, nonstandard stylings, but it sounds great.The only disappointing moment for me on the album came during the song “Rings.” It sounds incredible on a live recording from the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. It’s one of those songs that is so beautiful it makes the hairs on my neck stand up, but Kottke’s vocals on this particular recording seem a bit weaker somehow, and his guitar seems to lack the tone power and acoustic bite that makes him sound so good. I think this is due to being over-processed in the studio, but it is an excellent song no less. Pete Fowler is a freelance writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado
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