Focusing primarily on instrumental composition and playing, Kottke has sporadically moved in a vocal direction, singing in an unconventional yet expressive baritone famously self-described as sounding like "geese farts on a muggy day". In concert, Kottke intersperses humorous and often bizarre monologues with vocal and instrumental selections from throughout his career, played solo on his signature 6- and 12-string guitars. Kottke's guitars are often tuned unconventionally; early in his career he heavily utilized open tunings, while in recent years he has used more traditional voicings but often detunes his guitars as many as two full steps below standard tuning.
In 2002, Kottke and Mike Gordon (then the bassist from the band Phish) collaborated on Clone, an album featuring instrumental work and vocals from both musicians. A second album from the pair, Sixty Six Steps, followed in 2005 (by which time Phish was disbanded). The duo has toured in support of both discs.
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