Spring has brought a new wave of energy for most of us here in Austin. I see more people bustling around, and everyone has an increased sense of go, Go, GO! Now, I have nothing against being active or the buzz of social electricity, but it never hurts to slow things down a beat. To quote Elvis, is “too much not enough?” This year’s South by Southwest has sparked debate here in Austin: Has it gotten larger than necessary? This year’s SXSW was bigger, faster, and stronger than ever before. I mean, a make-shift Apple store on Congress offering iPad 2s like Willy Wonka’s golden tickets? Kanye and Jay-Z playing at the closing of the festival? Is that keeping Austin weird (in a good way)? For your consideration, Lady Gaga was also in town this week. Whoa. Perhaps things have gone a bit whirlwind and out of hand. Post-SXSW, the city seems to be coming down off of a giant sugar-high, like the Great Cornholio.
Coming Soon: Leo Kottke
To that, I can only say “settle down, Beavis.” Now take a deep breath, people. Let’s take some time and unplug for a while.
And heck, if we are going to unplug, we might as well go acoustic. Austin’s still a live music mecca, after all. Coming to The Paramount is Leo Kottke, a master of the acoustic guitar. It seems in this Guitar Hero/Rock Band video game saturated era, everyone thinks they’re a guru of the guitar (or of shiny colorful buttons); but Leo is a genuine virtuoso.
Learning music at a young age as his family moved from state to state (12 different ones during his childhood), Kottke first dabbled with the violin and trombone. Succumbing to the influence of Mississippi delta blues (particularly John Hurt), he finally settled on the guitar. And that’s lucky for us; we all have enjoying his talent ever since.
Just as impressive as his prodigious talent is Leo’s perseverance. Constantly battling hearing loss since his younger days, the 1980s also saw Kottke struggle with a painful bout of tendonitis. As a result of the tendon inflammation, he had to retrain himself on how to play the guitar. Nevertheless, he maintains his unorthodox finger picking style that creates a very distinct sound, particularly when playing the 12-string guitar.
Wait. Let me repeat that. 12 string guitar. To me, that’s absolutely mindblowing. I love good music, but must confess to a complete void of musical talent myself. I can’t even handle those colored buttons on the musical video games. That’s right, I’m a true Guitar Zero. In spite of this (or perhaps because of it), I appreciate musical artistry all the more.
Here’s a sample of some of his mesmerizing work. The way he works the strings and that slide is like something from another world. It’s just… wow.
And if you think there’s no way he can even come close to that level at his age. Guess again.
Oh, or how about this one. A partnership with Chet Atkins covering one of my all-time favorite guitar instrumentals. And, hey! Doesn’t that host seem familiar?
As an added bonus, Kottke will be performing with Austin’s adopted singer/songwriter Amy Cook. I first heard her as the opening act of Chris Isaak’s show in October. She’s been a favorite of mine ever since and has entered heavy rotation in my playlists. With Cook as an opening act, it promises to be an entertaining evening for guitar lovers. It will be a performance that promises to cleanse our palates and remind us that unplugged is more than okay.
This strumming legend has more talent in his fingers than most others possess in their entire bodies. I gotta admit, it sounds very exciting. I just gotta keep telling myself, “settle down, Beavis. Settle down.”
Leo Kottke performs at The Paramount on Saturday, April 9th at 8:00 p.m.