Album Review: Leo Kottke & Mike Gordon, ‘Noon’

The best review of Noon — the highly anticipated third album from guitar virtuoso Leo Kottke and bass wizard Mike Gordon, their first in 15 years — might be simply to advise you to pick up the album, hit play, and sit back and let these exceptional and inventive musicians carry you along over the twists and turns of their astonishing musical journey. Every song on Noon weaves a multi-layered texture of sound, with Kottke’s mesmerizing finger-picking wrapping around, over, and under Gordon’s darting and hypnotic bass lines. Drummer Jon Fishman, Gordon’s Phish bandmate, joins the duo on five songs, adding yet another rhythmic dimension to the music.

The album opens with Kottke’s sparkling tune “Flat Top,” a jaunty, scampering tune on which Kottke’s finger-picking circles round and round as Gordon’s bass plays harmonic call and response to Kottke’s rhythmic melody. “Flat Top” illustrates Kottke’s amazing ability to deliver rich and multi-faceted sounds from a single guitar. The duo offers up their version of the Byrds’ “Eight Mile High,” which features the pair noodling around and jamming on the instrumental bridge. Kottke says, “It really takes another kind of head to do what Mike is doing. In technical terms, it’s like trying to balance a mattress on a bottle of wine.” “I Am Random,” written by Gordon and Scott Murawski, ride playfully along a punchy, peripatetic vibe that has sonic echoes of the Grateful Dead and that showcases a spirited funkiness that rambles off at the song’s end into, well, a gleefully random—though thematically twinned—direction. “How Many People Are You,” another Gordon-Murawski tune, bops along with Fishman’s skittering sticks, mimicking an individual’s many identities in the many layers of the song, down to the multiple voices competing for space as the song closes. The haunting “Peel” evokes the very act of peeling slowly back the layers of personality and song. The album closes with the breezy “The Only One,” a bright tune with sonic echoes of Rick Nelson’s “Garden Party,” illustrates Kottke’s and Gordon’s adept mastery of weaving harmonics into a vibrant blanket of sound.

Brilliant as the noonday sun, Noon illuminates the glimmering facets of Kottke’s and Gordon’s sparkling musicianship.

Noon is available digitally now – HERE. (CD/Vinyl release date is 11/20, but available for pre-order now.)

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