Former Phish bassist Mike Gordon and guitar legend Leo Kottke will hit the road this fall in support of their second collaborative album, “Sixty Six Steps.” Due Aug. 23 via RCA Victor, the set blends a handful of originals with such covers as Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well” and Pete Seeger’s “Living in the Country.”
Although the lone confirmed date at deadline is a Sept. 23 appearance at the Austin City Limits Festival, Gordon tells Billboard.com the outing will last five weeks and hit every part of the United States. And while a handful of recent shows found Gordon and Kottke backed by percussionist Neil Symonette, the fall tour will return to a duo format.
“We did a couple of weeks with Neil and we loved playing with him, but Leo’s ears are sensitive, so we thought we’d bring it back to the duo,” Gordon says. “Since I’m not using an amps or monitors — I’m just using an acoustic bass — this is the softest stage sound I’ve ever experienced in my life. It’s softer than a string quartet un-amplified.”
The follow-up to 2002’s “Clone,” the new album was hammered out last December at Gordon’s father’s house in Costa Rica and recorded just before Christmas in the Bahamas.
“Going quick is a really good way to make an album,” Gordon offers. “Coupling that with being in an exotic place and working quickly with that vibe, it keeps it very encapsulated, mood-wise. I really like the way that aspect of it came out. It kind of brought me somewhere special.”
As for tackling a classic rock sacred cow like “Sweet Emotion,” Gordon admits he was initially skeptical. “The record company told us they had a lot of luck on a couple of Leo’s albums with cover songs that got airplay, and would we consider it?,” he says. “At first, I was like, ‘Well, f*** that!’ We’re not going to be told what to do! But I realized, actually, it’s a nice idea.”
Phish fans will also recognize album track “Ya Mar,” which was often covered at the band’s shows and has appeared on four of its “Live Phish” releases. “It didn’t seem we needed to go in and try and record it,” Gordon says of the Cyril Ferguson-penned, Mustangs-popularized tune. “But after working on it and adding and subtracting parts, eventually we liked the idea.”
Gordon is also building a recording studio in his Vermont home, in which he plans to focus on writing once the touring and promotion cycle for “Sixty Six Steps” is complete. “Hopefully, I’ll fire up the solo band,” he says, “but that will be some ways down the line.”