Two years ago, master picker Leo Kottke added a nice boost to his solo career in his collaboration with Phish bassist Mike Gordon on Clone. What resulted was Kottke's newly-realized appreciation for the potential of improvisation, which can finally be heard in his latest release Try and Stop Me.
Kottke's gone back to flying solo, and has released yet another gem of acoustic wizardry. He truly is able to cover a great deal of ground, from soft, spacious, and delicate segments to thundering, triumphant crescendos--often within the same song. Early on, "Then" offers a fine arrangement, while "Mora Roa" shows Kottke displaying a masterful amalgam of improvisation and tight composition.
The disc ends with a bang, in the form of "Gewerbegebiet" and "The Banks of Marble." "Gewerbegebiet" shows Kottke at his most pensive, with heartfelt, exaggerated bends on the guitar offsetting the "Music box Kottke" plucks on the strings, followed by a powerful reprise.
What the hell does the name mean though?
Kottke explains in the liner notes that "I learned that the Germans have done for the consonant what the Hawaiians have done for the vowel. To an English-speaking monoglot like me, 'gewerbegebiet' is a masterpiece of the language. Mahalo."
"The Banks of Marble" rounds out the album, with Los Lobos backing Kottke's vocals. This was the only track where Kottke sings, as he has described his voice as "geese farting on a foggy day." Such a comment yields greater insight to his onstage demeanor than his vocal talents. A timeless voice, Kottke's gravelly baritone is countered nicely by the playfulness of the track itself. It's too bad that Kottke opted to make the rest of the album instrumental, but that's a minor gripe in the face of what is a great release. This is a disc that has gotten better with each listen, as the subtleties of Kottke's genius slowly rise to the surface.
JamBase | Colorado
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