Pixel Tracker

Friday, December 14 , 2018, 3:13 am | Fair 50º


Jeff Moehlis: Acoustic Guitar Virtuoso Leo Kottke Reveals His Range

Leo Kottke is an extraordinary acoustic guitar player, with a style that draws on folk, blues, and jazz, but comes together in a way all his own. His musical career took off with his 1969 album 6 and 12 String Guitar, and since then he has released dozens of albums and entertained countless audiences with his guitar prowess, singing and hilarious stories between songs.

Kottke will be returning the Lobero Theatre on Saturday, Nov. 8. Click here to purchase tickets online.

After a wide-ranging phone interview with Kottke before his concert at the Lobero three years ago,  this time Kottke more succinctly answered Noozhawk’s email questions about cover songs and other guitarists who he has crossed paths with.

                                                                        •        •

Jeff Moehlis: In addition to your original songs, you’ve done a number of wonderful covers, my favorites being “Eight Miles High,” “Embryonic Journey” and “Sleepwalk.” What drew you to those songs?

Leo Kottke​: There are many tunes I’d love to cover but can’t. They just won’t fit inside my head, or on top of it. It’s like Robert Goulet doing Son House, or vice versa. (I do wish I’d heard Mr. House doing Robert Goulet.) But the three you mention have major thirds in them. I am not afraid of a major third.

JM: You’ve also recorded a couple of pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach, namely “​Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and “​Bourree.” It’s been claimed that Bach’s music is so exquisitely beautiful that it is proof of the existence of God. Comments?

LK: Bach is God.

JM: When I interviewed you before, you told me a great story about John Fahey working as the turtle catcher for the Swami Satchidananda Society. Are there any other John Fahey stories that you’re willing to share?

LK: Many, but I feel anymore like I’m milking him when I do. I’d rather just say I’d be a beggar if it weren’t for John.

JM: Another guitarist on Fahey’​s Takoma label was Robbie Basho. Can you tell me a bit about him, both as a guitarist and as a person?

LK: There were two of him. I knew the guy in DC who was into Japanese movies and wore cowboy outfits, drank a lot, sang “Hey Joe,” and “One Grain of Sand.” An amazing blues voice. The second Robbie, who I spoke to on the phone a couple times, insisted that the first did not and had never existed. I really believe that he believed that. Fahey knew the first Robbie but would only countenance the second Robbie ... who kinda bugged him. The first Robbie was pretty amazing on the 12.

JM: Any other guitarists who made a particular impact on you? Sandy Bull? Davy Graham? Peter Lang? ...

LK: All guitarists do. Sounds glib but that’s it. A guitar sounds good if you drop it on the floor. I’ve never wanted to be another guitarist but I wish I could play like a lot of other guitarists. That’s a very long list.

JM: What are your views on nature versus nurture when it comes to musical talent?

LK: It’s not nature or nurture. It’s luck. After that, if you have either, you’re a step ahead. Having said that, there is something ineffable about it. My son has a sense of time I can’t come close to. It was in him by the time he was about 4 years old. He was apparently born with an understanding that none of his relatives have.

JM: It’s been a while since you’ve released a new studio album. Is another one in the works, or are you happy to keep the focus on live performance these days?

LK: It’s always the live stuff. There are two records in the works but I can’t really talk about them yet. It’s too soon.

— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.