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Leo Kottke and Mike Gordon: Sixty Six Steps

You’d never suspect that a cover of Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” is coming but, whoomp, there it is: track six of 14 on finger-picking wiz Leo Kottke and ex-Phish bassist Mike Gordon’s second collaboration on disc. Prior to reducing the classic ’70s rocker to a softly sung piece of vaguely Caribbean-ish folk music, the pair give a similar island-inspired treatment to Pete Seeger’s “Living in the Country” and Peter Green’s “Oh Well.”

Save for Cyril Ferguson’s “Ya Mar” (a tune oft-jammed out to the hilt by Gordon’s former band) and Alex Harvey’s cowboy-pop tune “Rings,” the rest of Sixty Six Steps songs are Kottke or Gordon originals–the former’s are his usual, dazzling mazes of melody; the latter’s are generally light and forgettable odes to who-knows-what that could have used lyrical revision before going to tape. (Where’s the poetry in “Oh yeah, you got a message / From our neighbor downstairs / He just wanted to say / That he wished you had stayed / ‘Cause you worked on his yard / And the weeds have grown tall”?) No great shakes as singers, these guys get by with precise chops and light-as-a-feather grooves expertly mixed by engineer/producer David Z.

Originally Published