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Published: 2004/07/29
by Pat Buzby

Try and Stop Me – Leo Kottke

RCA Bluebird 82876-60645-2

Any description of Leo Kottke's music will be full of

paradoxes (quirky yet comfortable, deep but familiar)

and perhaps the biggest paradox of all is that it's

managed to stay fresh over nearly 30 years while

almost never changing. Each record puts subtle spins

on his brand of art: many or no additional musicians,

many or no vocals, many or few soft pieces. Each,

however, has offered fundamentally the same thing:

Kottke's deft six and 12-string playing, his baritone

voice and those stories which are as cryptic in print

as they are hilarious when he delivers them onstage.

The specs on Try and Stop Me are as follows: eleven

solo instrumentals, one vocal with band (a 1949

protest song with backup from Los Lobos, in their

junkyard Americana mode), nice liner portraits of

Kottke and a generous helping of his written

commentary. As for the music, it's a nice balance of

moods, starting with the folky double-shot of

"Monopoly" and "Stolen" and then branching into more

introspective territory with "Then," perhaps the

disc's standout piece.

The spin this time is that Kottke's brush with Phish's Mike

Gordon has left him with a greater willingness to

improvise. That seems to come through here with "Mora

Roa," about as close as one could imagine Kottke

getting to a Keith Jarrett-esque stream of

consciousness, and "Unbar," a similar outing in a

blues vein. The jazzier moods also appear in a

version of Carla Bley's "Jesus Maria" and the

originals "Axolotl" and "Gwerbegebiet," which, as the

titles might hint, take Kottke's folky picking in an

unusually stormy direction.

In the end, though, Try and Stop Me doesn't stop

Kottke from delivering his usual goods. Two decades

from now, there may be many changes in the label

systems that deliver music to audiences and the venues

where performers appear, but there's little doubt that

Kottke will still be on the circuit.

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