Grammy-nominated acoustic guitar player and master sonic storyteller Leo Kottke stops in Telluride for a performance at the Michael D. Palm Theater on Friday, Aug. 22.
Born in the live music hotbed of Athens, Ga., Kottke’s curious historical timeline sees him as a frequently moving youth, serving in the Navy, and becoming a college dropout who inevitably traveled the country with his 12-string and an unconventional picking style. The Minneapolis scene surrounding the Scholar Coffeehouse would be where he settled in during his early career, much as Bob Dylan did before him. Capitol Records released most of his studio efforts during the 70s, and it was with Chewing Pine that he would tap into the U.S. Top 30 charts.
The cult following he gained from tours in Europe and Australia would witness Kottke shed finger picks in the 80s, and replace them with a noteworthy fingertip-only style. Label jumping and consistent releases built out a deep discography that was reanimated when a collaborative project with famed bassist Mike Gordon of the band Phish came about in 2002. The hype warranted a followup, and a recording was done in the Bahamas called Sixty-Six Steps that saw assistance from Prince producer David Z.
Overcoming personal obstacles – including partial loss of hearing and tendon damage in his right hand – has done little to hinder Kottke’s journey into mastering the guitar, and only adds to the mythology of this awe-inspiring artist.
These days the Doctorate in Music Performance recipient, affectionately called Leo by some, manages to stay on the same road that his journey into music started upon. An interestingly routed set of gigs pulls him from a sold-out two night run in Chicago, directly to the Western Slope for a very special night of incredible folk, jazz, blues, baritone vocals, and first rate fingerpicking guitar. A one-off show of this caliber doesn’t happen often in the region, and if the music isn’t enough, Kottke’s notorious stage banter might be worth the laughs alone.