Leo Kottke – Mudlark (1971)

FrontCover1.jpgMudlark is American guitarist Leo Kottke’s fourth album, his first on a major label (Capitol) and his first to feature other musicians. It reached #168 on the Billboard Pop Albums charts.

Recording started in Los Angeles and later moved to Nashville. Four of the cuts were recorded in Wayne Moss’s garage studio in Nashville. The song “Room 8” is titled after a neighborhood cat named Room 8 who wandered into a classroom in 1952 at Elysian Heights Elementary School in Echo Park, California and lived at the school each winter, leaving in the summer. (by wikipedia)

Mudlark rates highly on many a Kottke fan’s favorite list. This was Kottke’s Capitol Records debut, and his solo instrumental sound is augmented with the addition of studio sidemen (bass, drums, piano). His playing is superb (no surprise there) and full of youthful vigor — a fusion of high-speed picking, brash slide work, funky folk, acoustic rock, and melodicism. Most importantly, Mudlark marked the debut of Kottke as a singer, an indication that Capitol was trying to shoehorn him into the singer/songwriter genre. Kottke himself has made disparaging remarks about his own vocals, but they add personality to his virtuosic guitar chops. His acoustic 12-string cover of “Eight Miles High” is particularly strong at showing off the vocal richness.

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On later albums, the vocals would become more mannered; here Kottke takes a more forward approach — belting out the melodies with gusto. Kottke’s sound was too raucous and unpredictable to guarantee commercial success on a major label. Stylistically, Kottke is all over the map (as usual), blending traditional folk, bluegrass, blues, singer/songwriter, and classical into his own brand of high-octane eclecticism. There’s no mistaking the Leo Kottke “sound,” but it’s hard to label it. Versatility is paramount, from the down-home high-speed picking of “Cripple Creek” to the steely bottleneck slide work on “June Bug” to the Baroque classicism of “Bourrée” by J.S. Bach, all of it wrapped by Kottke’s wry, surreal wit. A landmark early album, Mudlark increased Kottke’s visibility and helped establish his reputation as a homegrown American original. (by Jim Esch)

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Personnel:
Leo Kottke (guitar, bottleneck national steel guitar, vocals)
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Kenneth Buttrey (drums, percussion, cowbell on 01., 05., 10. + 14.)
Roy Estrad (bass on track 02.)
Kim “Juke Box Phantom” Fowley (vocals on 07.)
John Harris (piano on 01., 05. + 14.)
Jeffrey Kaplan (piano on 08. + 11.)
Paul “Fast Foot” Lagos (drums on 02., 03., 07. – 09. + 11.)
Wayne Moss (bass on 01., 05., 10. + 14.)
Pat Smit (bass on 11.)
Larry Taylor (bass on 03,, 07. + 09.)

Leo Kottke01.jpgTracklist:
01. Cripple Creek (Traditional) 2.01
02. Eight Miles High (Clark/McGuinn/Crosby) 3.39
03. June Bug (Kottke) 2.17
04. The Ice Miner (Kottke) 2.03
05. Bumblebee (Kottke) 3.45
06. Stealing (Kottke) 1.42
07. Monkey Lust (Kottke/Fowley) 1.54
08. Poor Boy (White/Fahey) 2.10
09. Lullaby (Kottke) 3.24
10. Machine #2 (Kottke) 3.04
11. Hear The Wind Howl (Kottke) 3.04
12. Bourée (Bach) 1.28
13. Room 8 (Kottke) 3.00
14. Standing in My Shoes (Kottke/Bruce) 3.11

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