20th Century Masters of Finger-Style Guitar, 1982

20th Century Masters of Finger-Style Guitar

Transcription, study notes, and history by John Stropes
Biographies by Peter Lang

Table of Contents

Norman Blake:
"The Spanish Fandango, 1860"

John Fahey:
"In Christ There is No East or West"
"When You Wore A Tulip"

Joseph Spence:
"Glory Glory"

Ry Cooder:
"Great Dream From Heaven'

Peter Lang:
"When Kings Come Home"
"V/ The Connecticut Promissory Rag"

Leo Kottke[1]:
"Prodigal Grave"
"Easter and the Sargasso Sea"

[Excerpt from Leo Kottke section]

     No musical styles remain static.  They expand, grow, and develop complexity, but the whereto and the wherefrom are forever linked.  It is through assimilation of stylistic influences through  time that a new form of the style emerges which possess new characteristics and techniques.

      Leo Kottke may well represent the future of the form.  Many of the artists in this volume have strong ties to the history and the tradition of the style.  Leo, on the other hand, is less encumbered by the sense of wherefrom and tradition.  He looks forward and not back.  His influences come from a more current generation of guitarists.  He is  distinctive and extraordinary.  He is an innovator.

      Perhaps more than any other guitarist, it has been John Fahey who has had the most profound effect on Kottke.  Over the years Kottke has recorded and performed a number of Fahey's tunes including "Poor Boy", "Last Steam Engine Train", "In Christ There is No East or West," and "Sail Away Ladies".  "He was a heck of an influence on my imagine, on the idea of the guitar as a place.  Up 'till then, I'd been blind to the fact that it was so expressive for me -- I hadn't realized there were a million ways to externalize, organize, present it, enjoy it and preserve it.  John was the only guy in the country who had any idea of a steel stringed acoustic guitar as a concert instrument."

      While John Fahey may have introduced this style as serious concert music, much credit is due Kottke for its popularization.  To much of the public Kottke represents the state of the art in finger-style guitar.  More often than not, it is he against whom all others are measured. He has set the standard.

      Leo has not only mastered the conventional techniques of this style, but has created his own.  He is unencumbered by many of the restrictions of the instrument.  How does he do it?  Is there something we do not know?  Perhaps there are Faustian implications, or what would you say to extra joints in each of his fingers?  Do you think he might be an extraterrestrial?

      Kottke's music is aggressive and immediate, tempered with a sense of delicacy and balance, an interesting combination to be sure.  He is perhaps best known for compositions in the genre of "Vasoline Machine Gun" [sic] and "June Bug".  The power he generates from the instrument is awesome.  This is reflected in the choice of the 12-string guitar as his primary performance instrument.  "...I've always felts that the 12 string -- if you can get a good one, one that will stay in tune and sound right -- is even more of a solo instrument than the 6 string, because for me it's like going from a piano to a pipe organ."

      Leo Kottke was born in Athens, Georgia in 1945.  As a child he lived in Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota (where he now resides), Oklahoma, Wyoming, and Virginia.  His early influences on the guitar include Burl Ives, Pete Seeger, Fred Gerlach, Mitch Greenhill, and Dick Rosimini.  Kottke credits Peter Seeger's song "Bells of Rhymney" as his first introduction to the 12-string guitar.  In 1969 Kottke recorded his first album, Leo Kottke/12 String Blues/Live at the Scholar, on the now defunct Oblivion record label.  Interestingly enough, the Scholar was the same coffee house where, a decade before, Bob Dylan began his performing career.

      John Fahey recognized the tremendous talents and potential of Kottke and signed him to a recording contract with Takoma Records.  This association led to the release of Kottke's most successful album, Leo Kottke/6 and 12-String Guitar.  This was followed by Circle 'Round the Sun on the Symposium label.  Following the success of these albums, Kottke signed with Capitol Records and recorded a string of brilliant albums including Mudlark, Greenhouse and Ice Water.  Kottke is at present [i.e., in 1982] recording for Chrysalis Records.

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