Though Leo Kottke
once experienced partial hearing loss, the Athens, Georgia, native has always found a way to overcome setbacks and create country-blues-inspired folk instrumentals. Since releasing 1969's 6- and 12-String Guitar
, he's survived major record labels who wanted to make him into a cookie-cutter singer-songwriter; independent record labels who tried to lump his music in with New Age wankery; and painful tendonitis and nerve damage, which threatened to put an end to his career in the early '80s. But Kottke just virtually started over as a player and completely changed his finger-picking style. This willingness to adapt and learn new techniques (along with recent collaborations with Phish bassist Mark Gordon) has helped Kottke connect with a new generation of listeners — and proves that the virtuosic twelve-string slide-guitar frenzy of a song like "Vaseline Machine Gun" is no less impressive today than it was 40 years ago.