Leo Kottke burst onto the scene at the beginning of the Seventies with a fresh approach to the acoustic guitar, especially with open tuned fingerpicking style on 12 string that influenced generations of Guitarists after him, such as Pat Metheny, Michael Hedges and Tommy Emmanuel.  AEG Live/ The Messina Group will bring the Player’s Player live to TPAC’s James K. Polk Theater on Wednesday, March 16th.

Leo is best known for his Polyphonic Syncopated Melodies and use of detuned obscure chords. His first album recorded in 1969, 6 and 12 String Guitar on Takoma Records, has been reissued many times as it was a blue print for what was possible, thinking outside the box, Leo was the Allan Holdsworth of the steel string acoustic.

Leo was so amazing as a solo performer and recording Artist that he was picked up by Capitol Records in the Seventies, releasing five albums by 1975 including Dreams and All That Stuff which peaked at #45 on the Billboard Charts. Leo then moved on to Chrysalis Records until 1983. The music business finally caught up with Leo’s forward process when he moved to New Age Label, Private Music in 1986. This was a productive time with a community of musicians looking for inventive composition achieving one of his highest chart positions with That’s What at #24 on the Billboard Charts.

Leo has worked with several Artists including Lyle Lovett, Rickie Lee Jones, Chet Atkins, David Hidalgo and most recently released two critically acclaimed albums with Phish Bassist, Mike Gordon , Clone and Sixty Six Steps. Sixty Six Steps featured some interesting covers of “Sweet Emotion” the classic Aerosmith song as well as “Oh Well” the Peter Green penned Fleetwood Mac song.

Leo who was born in Athens, Georgia and grew up learning to play the style of Mississippi John Hurt in Muscogee, Oklahoma, eventually incorporated many influences from Delta Blues, Jazz and Folk Music. In much the same way as Mandolin Player Sam Bush and Banjo Man Bela Fleck he has always sought to re interpret traditional American Music in an ever expanding portfolio of methods.

When Leo had problems with tendonitis, he learned to find new tones without using fingerpicks, developing a more jazz fingered style method, as well as going the way of the Singer/Songwriter at times.  Despite being so advanced in his own style, Leo still is amazed at some of the prowess out there, “I hear people playing who baffle me. I can’t see how they’re doing it — either so soon because they’re so young or despite being laid up because they’re so old. It’s frustrating, this bafflement, only because I’ve never really done my homework, the quotidian, day-to-day scut work of concentrated study, and I owe it to people like Federico [Franco], or Snoozer [Quinn], to do that … they did. I admire these players”.

Leo’s life has been one of an ever changing music chameleon having started during the time of Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix through the New Age Music Era and in a way going full circle working with Jam Band Alumni Mike Gordon, the guitar has been there always,” It saved my life when I was a kid. I’d been sick. Now it is my life. I wouldn’t call it joy, but that’s in there. It’s more than joy — and it gives me the creeps just saying that — but it’s true.”

 Leo has played on several makes and types of guitars over the years before finally becoming a Signature Artist for Taylor Guitars with his own co-designed 12 string model.  The TPAC Polk Theater will be a great forum to connect with a guitar community for the most essential element to Nashville is the guitar and there are more guitar players in Nashville than anywhere else in the world and the best of the best will no doubt be in attendance on March 16th for the inspired playing and improvisation of Leo Kottke.

 – Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN    thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

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