For more than three decades, Kottke has never wavered from the pursuit of his unique musical vision. Best known for his idiosyncratic fingerpicking, which draws from folk, blues, jazz, and even occasional rock elements, he often uses “dropped tunings,” in which his six- and twelve-string guitars are tuned as much as two steps below standard pitch. Although primarily an instrumental artist, Kottke occasionally sings in an equally unusual voice that he comically describes as “goose farts on a muggy day,” and intersperses his live concerts with amusing and sometimes bizarre monologues.
Kottke overcame partial deafness and a debilitating and potentially career-ending problem with tendonitis that threatened his career in the early 1980s. Born and raised in Muskogee, Oklahoma, he gravitated toward the guitar after trying his hand at the trombone and violin. His hearing problems were exacerbated during a stint in the Naval Reserve.
“I had to throw away my picks,” Kottke says about his battle with tendonitis. “There really isn’t any treatment for it, and most people solve their problems by changing their technique, which is what I did. But it takes a long, long time and it’s really, really tough.”
Over the years, Kottke has recorded solo, with accompaniment, and with friends and musical colleagues like John Fahey, Chet Atkins, Lyle Lovett, Johnny Cash, The Byrds, Jorma Kaukonen, and Kris Kristofferson, and has appeared frequently on NPR’s “A Prairie Home Companion.” Most recently, Kottke has recorded with Phish bassist Mike Gordon; the duo has released two compact discs, Clone and Sixty-Six Steps (both RCA Victor). Kottke has recorded 30 albums in all, plus various “best of” collections.
Lindley first came to the public’s attention in the 1960s as a member of the band Kaleidoscope, perhaps the first world-music rock band. The group recorded and released four LPs on Epic Records, none of which proved to be big sellers. But Kaleidoscope was extremely influential on other musicians, including Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page.
Upon Kaleidoscope’s demise, Lindley joined Jackson Browne’s group and stayed for 10 years, playing all manner of guitars and exotic stringed instruments. His lap-steel guitar work is featured prominently on Browne’s hit “Running on Empty” and many others. Since the early '80s, Lindley has led the blues-rock band El Rayo-X; made numerous recordings of indigenous world music, rock, folk, and blues; and has done session work for Ry Cooder, Warren Zevon, Bob Dylan, Linda Ronstadt, Rod Stewart, Bruce Hornsby, Shawn Colvin, Crosby & Nash, and many others.
Leo Kottke and David Lindley will perform at the Paramount Center for the Arts in Peekskill on April 14 at 8pm. (914) 739-2333; www.paramountcenter.org. David Lindley will perform solo at the Bearsville Theater in Bearsville on April 7 at 8pm. (845) 679-4406; www.bearsvilletheater.com.