Melody Maker, January 6, 1979

Record Review:  Burnt Lips

      Leo Kottke once played support to Son House's Sixties comeback, and my, how such experiences have rubbed off on him.  Latterly those lived-in vocals (once unkindly described by Kottke himself as "geese farts on a muggy day") have threatened to engulf his loping, blues-based guitar -- which is saying much.  If an amalgam of, say, Johnny Cash and Lightnin' Slim attracts, look no further.  Mr. Kottke is 33 and manages to sound about 500, so sublimely world-weary is his delivery.

      Latterly, too, his word-imagery has caught up with the images generated by his very distinctive instrumentals.  There was a time when Kottke never sang, but that time seems past when vocals and guitar counterpoint each other so presciently as here on the Songs Of The Pioneer's elegiac classic, "Cool Water."

      Like-minded tracks are placed back to back so that the two hallucinating cautionary tales, "Frank Forgets" and "Sonora" [sic] -- "a ni.htmare of mescal was all that it was" -- and Nick Lowe's "Endless Sleep" (off the "bowl" LP, not to be confused with the Judy Reynolds oldie) with the aforementioned "Cool Water" take on an epic quality as a result of all the cross-references.

      Kottke's picking, while never less than assured, is hard put to equal the luxuriant surrealism of the lyrics, and seems best employed in a percussive role, for which his lengthy fade-out technique is perfectly suited.  Always better at effect rather than cause, he is not so much the master guitarists of his press releases, as a considerably underexposed emergent singer/songwriter of peculiar charm.  -- Maureen Paton

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