Keller Williams & Leo Kottke
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Keller Williams: 20 Years of Making Music
20 Years of Making Music
Those who’ve followed Keller Williams’ recording career to date know that he has given each of his albums a single-syllable title: FREEK, BUZZ, SPUN, BREATHE, LOOP, LAUGH, HOME, DANCE, STAGE, GRASS, DREAM, TWELVE, LIVE, ODD, THIEF, KIDS, BASS, PICK, FUNK, and most recently, VAPE (released April 20, 2015). Each title serves not only as a concise summation of the concept guiding the particular project but also as another piece of the jigsaw puzzle that is Keller Williams. GRASS, for example, is a bluegrass recording, cut with the husband-wife duo the Keels. STAGE is a live album and DREAM the end product of a wish list: Keller collaborating with some of his greatest musical heroes. THIEF is a set of unexpected cover songs. And KIDS offers up, you guessed it, Williams’ first and possibly only children’s record.The naming trend continued with 2012’s BASS and PICK, respectively a set of songs where Keller plays bass and William’s collaboration with royal bluegrass family The Travelin’ McCourys. With VAPE, released in April 2015 –Keller celebrates his 20th official album release. What all of the titles reveal, when taken together, is an artist of great stylistic breadth and infinite imagination, a singer, songwriter and musician, always on a quest for the new.
Acoustic guitarist Leo Kottke was born in Athens, Georgia, but left town after a year and a half. Raised in 12 different states, he absorbed a variety of musical influences as a child, flirting with both violin and trombone, before abandoning Stravinsky for the guitar at age 11. After adding a love for the country-blues of Mississippi John Hurt to the music of John Phillip Sousa and Preston Epps, Kottke joined the Navy underage, to be underwater, and eventually lost some hearing shooting at lightbulbs in the Atlantic while serving on the USS Halfbeak, a diesel submarine. Kottke had previously entered college at the U of Missouri, dropping out after a year to hitchhike across the country to South Carolina, then to New London and into the Navy, with his twelve string. "The trip was not something I enjoyed," he has said, "I was broke and met too many interesting people."
Discharged in 1964, he settled in the Twin Cities area and became a fixture at Minneapolis' Scholar Coffeehouse, which had been home to Bob Dylan and John Koerner. He issued his 1968 recording debut LP Twelve String Blues, recorded on a Viking quarter-inch tape recorder, for the Scholar's tiny Oblivion label. (The label released one other LP by The Langston Hughes Memorial Eclectic Jazz Band.) After sending tapes to guitarist John Fahey, Kottke was signed to Fahey's Takoma label, releasing what has come to be called the Armadillo record. Fahey and his manager Denny Bruce soon secured a production deal for Kottke with Capitol Records.