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Leo Kottke

Acoustic-guitar maestro Leo Kottke once described his singing voice as akin to “geese farts on a foggy day.” We beg to differ.

Kottke’s droll—but highly resonant—baritone is a perfect complement to the mind-boggling 12-string-fingerpicking gymnastics that have made him a legend, replete with his own freakishly devoted cult following. In fact, a more extravagantly baroque vocal style would be redundant. But then again, singing has never been the realm in which Kottke’s passion resides.

As a child growing up in Athens, Ga., Kottke flirted with violin and trombone before he settled obsessively on guitar at the tender age of 11. Influenced first by the country blues of such icons as Mississippi John Hurt, Kottke soon developed a distinctive sound that blended blues, folk and jazz with an odd, devil-may-care vibe. After a teenage stint hitchhiking across the country, picking up gigs in seedy roadhouses and obscure coffeehouses whenever he could, Kottke settled in Minneapolis in the late ‘60s (he still lives in the Twin Cities area). He quickly became a regular in that city’s folk-club circuit, and recorded his debut LP, Twelve String Blues, live at a local coffeehouse.

Mudlark, his 1971 major-label debut on Capitol Records, caught the rapt attention of critics and music lovers alike, and a career was born. My Feet are Smiling and Ice Water followed in quick succession, sealing Kottke’s fate as perhaps the 12-string-guitar master of the modern era. His staccato, virtuosic playing hasn’t faltered through three-plus decades, though he has drastically cut back on touring since the mid-‘80s because of chronic hand pain due to, well, all that staccato, virtuosic playing. Still, he’s managed to release seven albums during the past decade, culminating in Clone, this year’s collaboration with Phish bassist Mike Gordon.

Don’t miss a rare (these days) chance to experience Kottke’s singular musical prowess live when he comes to the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall (corner of State Street and Second Avenue, Troy) on Saturday (April 5). The show starts at 8 PM. Tickets go for $23 and $26. Call 273-0038 for tickets and more information.

Jean Holly Clark and Linda Cross: Monotypes

In this exhibit at the Specertown Academy, two artists use a process created by a 17th-century Italian printmaker to express their feelings for our contemporary rural landscape.

Jean Holly Clark tries to capture her deep respect and love for nature in her work (pictured). Using the monotype process—painting directly on a plexiglass sheet, letting it dry, then printing the image on dampened, heavyweight paper—Clark creates imagery that, she hopes, serves as a statement about herself. Living and working outside Saratoga Springs, Clark was a senior designer for a New York-based stained-glass studio, and has most recently exhibited at the Arts Center of the Capital District.

Immediacy—that’s what Linda Cross looks to the monotype process for. According to the program notes for this exhibition, Cross sees the medium as “an unusually spontaneous form of expressing ongoing concerns.” The monotypes in this show reflect her interest in landscapes, and the effect of humans on the environment. In a complex mix of abstraction and realism, she contrasts rural and urban settings. Cross has exhibited at Albany Center Galleries, the Hudson Opera House and the Tribes Gallery in New York City.

Jean Holly Clark and Linda Cross: Monotypes will open in the art gallery of Spencertown Academy (Route 203, Spencertown) on Saturday (April 5) with an opening reception from 4 to 6 PM. The exhibit will run through May 11. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 1 to 5 PM, and admission is free. For more information, call 392-3693.

Richard Rodriguez

Acclaimed memoirist Richard Rodriguez’s most recent book, Brown: The Last Discovery of America, is a compelling and elegantly poetic examination of an awkward, complex and protean topic: the notion of racial identity in an America programmed to think primarily of—or in—black and white. As a gay Mexican-American recipient of an elite education (he has degrees from Stanford and Columbia), Rodriguez explores “the tensions inherent in the ‘hyphenated’ American identity,” using the color brown—as in skin that is neither black nor white—as a metaphor for intermediate or undefined states of being, of the spaces in between, and as a “symbol of the nonlinear and unexpected.” Brown challenges received notions of identity, and poignantly evokes the struggle of an individual mind to position itself in relation to a tradition seemingly constructed to proscribe its freedom.

Richard Rodriguez will read from and discuss his work at the Performing Arts Center of the University at Albany (1400 Washington Ave., Albany) on Tuesday (April 8). The event is free and begins at 8 PM. For more information, please call 442-5620.


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