Any guitar music lover who has heard the virtuosity of Leo Kottke will quickly recognize the influence he has had on my playing style.
While I haven't attempted to mimic Leo, I thank him for opening my eyes and ears to a musical place I had sought in my early years. "The Willow" is a fair representation of my musical evolution, where I have distanced myself from exclusively playing in open tunings and found happiness in standard tuning, with the occasional tune played in a Drop-D. I also learned over time to lose the finger picks (kept the thumb pick, tho), seek full range clarity, and most importantly that less really is more.
I have only taken a stab at playing one of Leo's tunes over the years and I have included it on this album. I have only found Leo performing "The Fisherman" on his earliest recordings, plus one internet video. I have always loved this piece, and offer my best rendition of a "lovely, simple melody" without, I hope, doing what Leo wryly refers to as "driving it into the ground". One may consider said rendition as my bona fides, if you need a benchmark with which to gauge "The Willow".
But, if I may say so, every single tune on this album stands on its own and deserves exploring. Some hidden treasures, I think. My composition "Father's Lament" for my younger daughter's wedding, a musical tribute to all the fathers that arrive at the day that their little girl runs off and finds a new hero. The title tune "The Willow" is one of my favorites and there really is a willow tree that inspired the title. I would have used an actual photo of the tree on the cover, but I waited too late to decide on the cover and by then all the leaves had fallen off. So, plan 'B' was required and resulted in some nice artwork instead. "No Rules" always seems to conjure up a mental picture of a smallish night time predator scurrying about for a midnight snack. "Dreams" is an attempt by me to put to music someone's recurring appearances in my dreams, for better or worse. With "Amazing Unbroken Flower" I do one of my favorite things and take elements of three wonderful traditional pieces ("Amazing Grace"- "Will the Circle be Unbroken"- and "Wildwood Flower") and blend them together for what I hope is a faithful rendition. "Sidney Haz a Happy" for my good cat Sid, who never met a food bowl he didn't absolutely LOVE ! "At The End Of The Day" sweetly wraps up your journey through the album. It is also one of my favorites and about the loveliest piece I have composed to date.
There may be other little meanderings of mine that will remind the learned ear of a tune of Leo's. I freely admit my guilt of "borrowing" an idea here and there. But, I think the single biggest lesson I ever learned from Leo is to play tunes that are melody driven and not taking a musical theme and wearing it out, all the while putting your audience to sleep. Relax. Have a good time. Don't take it so seriously ! Others will be thankful.
My co-producer, Wayne Weikel of Catawba Sound Studio, and I are both quite proud of this album. My thanks to Wayne and his learned ear and deft touch at the controls. My thanks, in advance, to guitar music lovers the world over that bring "The Willow" into their musical libraries.
I hope my tunes bring you years of joy. Thank you.