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Sixty Six Steps – Leo Kottke and Mike Gordon

RCA Victor 82876 68909-2

My dad really liked Sixty Six Steps. But dear old dad doesn’t always dig on what I’ve got to offer musically, so it got me thinking. What set Sixty Six Steps apart?

Here’s what I came up with: he’s a dad. He’s got a family, and bills to pay. He’s got things on his mind. Dad stuff. He’s not interested in dissecting, or over-analyzing music, or searching for the beauty underneath. He doesn’t have the time, or the energy. When it comes time for some tunes, he wants Graceland. Not free jazz.

Simply put, he likes music that plain old sounds good. Not music that represents something, or is interesting for reasons other than how it straight-up sounds. So Sixty Six Steps, the latest from Leo Kottke and Mike Gordon, was a natural fit for his ears.

Check it: great songs and first-rate musicianship are the essence of this album. There’s no filler. Nothing to distract us from Gordon’s spry bass lines, or Kottke’s giddy guitar licks.

And there’s no ignoring the groove. Bahamian percussionist Neil Symonette (the record was cut at Compass Point Studios, in the Bahamas) and his supernatural sense of rhythm are responsible for the island vibe that courses through the album.

Mike Gordon is responsible, too. Not so much for the island vibe, maybe, but for the best songs on here, certainly. “Invisible,” in particular, is a moving tale of love lost and gone.

“I felt a spark some months ago or years,” he sings. “I saw you clearly in my dreams and in my fears.” “The Stolen Quiet” also deals with the departure of a partner, this time with more humor. “The sheer amount of surface space increased around here,” he sings. “With your diet soda gone there’s more room for my beer.”

Never one to be shown up, Kottke leaves his indelible mark on the record with “From Spink To Correctionville,” a solo spot. The bluesy instrumental reminds us that Kottke is primarily a solo performer (and a killer slide player).

A solo performer who couldn’t resist partnering up with Gordon once again for some covers (Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well,” Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion”), some older Kottke standbys (Pete Seeger’s “Living In The Country,” the original “Twice”), a Phish fan favorite (“Ya Mar”) and some new Mike songs (“The Grid,” “Can’t Hang”). Sixty Six Steps has a lot to offer, free of pretense or posturing. Relax, and enjoy it. Share it with your dad.

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