Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
Across my transom the other day came a video of my old hero, Leo Kottke, playing a sweet little love song called “Rings.” There it is, right up there. ↑
If you’re too young to know about Leo, I’d suggest that you dig up some of his stuff, or, even better, watch more videos of him playing. He’s a master fingerpicker who makes his twelve-string boom and rumble like a brass band, while his voice is a grumbly baritone that he once described as “goose farts.”
I wrote about him, wow, four years ago now, after my wife and I saw him in Petaluma in a very small venue, where we sat maybe five, six rows back from him. He’s more charming and funny and amazing up close, but if you get a chance to see him in a larger hall don’t pass it up. You’ll never forget it. He’s 71 now, no doubt still thumping on that guitar as robustly as ever.
Between Kottke and Pete Seeger, I was inspired to buy a twelve-string Fender when I was a young one, but I was always busting the high G and the rest of those steel blades were hard on my fingers. I went back to a six somewhere along the way, ultimately giving the Fender to my brother, Joe, who cherished it until the day he died, and now my nephew owns it. I doubt if he knows who Leo Kottke is, but if I could get him to learn “Vaseline Machine Gun” I think he’d be hooked for life.
I’ve seen Kottke in person several times, going all the way back to his heyday in the ‘70s. He opened for Jesse Colin Young at one of those concerts, and my date and I left after his set. I would have hated to be Jesse trying to follow Leo Kottke. Must have felt like an open mic comic coming on after George Carlin.
It’s great to step out of your workaday life every now and then and realize that there are important continuities all around. Leo Kottke is one of mine, and listening to him for a little bit slows everything down and lets me live in a timeless state where it’s just me and the music.
Quite a trick.