Few artists are void of forebears and influences, though in some cases the connection is indiscernible. Albert King cited T-Bone Walker as his main influence, though his style bears no resemblance to the blues pioneer’s. Russell Potter was inspired by the three leaders of the fingerpicked steel-string “American primitive” school; John Fahey, Robbie Basho, and Leo Kottke. But while using them as touchstones, his resultant style is homage rather than caricature.
One listen to Potter’s lone albums, from 1979 and ’81, will make you wish the guitarist’s recording career hadn’t ended so abruptly. His playing is articulate but warm, proficient yet soulful – impressive considering that A Stone’s Throw was recorded when he was just a freshman in college.
Potter displays chutzpah when he pays tribute to Fahey, twisting the acoustic icon’s “Dance of the Inhabitants of the Palace of King Philip XIV of Spain” into an electric bottleneck showpiece – which makes total sense (and is played with perfect intonation). He also explores traditional Irish melodies, on the lovely “Planxty Irwin” and “The Flowers Of Edinburgh.”
Recorded just as American primitive was being co-opted into new age (but years before the idiom’s rebirth), this missing link sounds all the more contemporary for its time away.
This article originally appeared in VG’s September 2021 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.