Few musicians can match Leo Kottke when it comes to building a loyal cult following.
Kottke, who will be in concert tomorrow night at Monroe County Community College, has a fluid finger-picking style that melds folk, blues, jazz, rock, and bluegrass into a gentle storm of guitar flurries, and he will add an occasional vocal touch with his ruminating baritone.
When he broke into the national scene in the early 1970s, his eclectic style made record executives wonder how to categorize his music. But Kottke toured relentlessly and managed to reach the Top 50 with his 1975 album "Chewing Pine."
The 61-year-old musician has overcome serious personal setbacks in his career, including partial deafness in his left ear from a firecracker mishap and in his right ear from target practice in the military, as well as tendon damage in his hands that forced him to change his playing style.
Kottke has released 23 studio albums since 1969, the most recent being the aptly titled "Try and Stop Me" on RCA's Bluebird label.
In a true cult-artist effort, the album features 11 tunes that range from a cover of Patti Page's 1950s pop standard "Mockingbird Hill" to an original instrumental number named "Gewerbegeit" to a delicate spin on Carla Bley's "Jesus Maria."
In addition, Kottke is backed by Latino rockers Los Lobos in his cover of a 1949 song recorded by folk pioneers the Weavers titled "The Banks of Marble." Don't expect to get a handle on Kottke's mysterious persona by poring over his writings.
In the liner notes to "Try and Stop Me," Kottke explains his songs by hopping around such topics as chess strategy, Scrooge McDuck, and two guys who walked into a greasy spoon in the middle of nowhere "and stunk the place up."
The Kottke cult has learned not to bother trying to analyze the artist. It's better to just soak up the sounds he creates, wherever they may come from, and wherever they may lead.
Leo Kottke will be in concert at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow in the La-Z-Boy Center at Monroe Community College, 1555 South Raisinville Rd., Monroe. Tickets are $20. Information: 734-384-4272.