357

Bill Frisell: Disfarmer

Joel Roberts By

Sign in to view read count
Bill Frisell: Disfarmer Guitarist Bill Frisell's latest foray outside jazz into folk-country-Americana is a soundtrack of sorts to an exhibit of photographs by Michael Disfarmer, an eccentric and curmudgeonly portrait artist who recorded stark, stunning black and white images of his fellow townsfolk in rural Arkansas in the 1940s and '50s.

Most of the 26 tracks here are sparse, evocative sketches or snapshots, with Frisell and his string quartet of longtime cohorts—Greg Liesz on steel guitar and mandolin, Jenny Scheinman on violin and Viktor Krauss on bass—exploring and reworking simple countrified melodies. But, as is always the case with Frisell, this isn't your grandma's country music. He uses looping, music boxes and even has Scheinman play a Philip Glass-like backdrop on the haunting "Focus."

Some of the more fully developed tunes beg for the addition of lyrics and a sympathetic vocalist (maybe Allison Krauss on the bittersweet "Little Girl" or Neil Young on the brooding "I Am Not a Farmer"). A handful of well-chosen covers round out the album and help establish the mood of mid-20th century, middle-American melancholy, including a reimagining of Elvis Presley's famous version of "That's All Right Mama" (with Frisell faithfully reproducing Scotty Moore's classic rockabilly solos) and a take on Hank Williams' "Lovesick Blues" that showcases Liesz' superb steel guitar chops.

This is a quiet, at times almost pastoral, album and while it's expertly played by all the artists, there are fewer instrumental fireworks than on Frisell's jazz outings or some of his earlier explorations of country music, like the much-acclaimed Nashville. But lurking just below the beauty on the surface, as in many of Disfarmer's photographs, is a hint of despair and danger, which gives the work its power.

Track Listing: Disfarmer Theme; Lonely Man; Lost, Night; Farmer; Focus; Peter Miller's Discovery; That's Alright, Mama; Little Girl; Little Boy; No One Gets In; Lovesick Blues; I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You); Shutter, Dream; Exposed; The Wizard; Think; Drink; Play; I Am Not A Farmer; Small Town; Arkansas (Part 1); Arkansas (Part 2); Arkansas (Part 3); Lost Again, Dark; Natural Light; Did You See Him?

Personnel: Bill Frisell: electric and acoustic guitars, loops, music boxes; Greg Liesz: steel guitars, mandolin; Jenny Scheinman: violin; Viktor Krauss: bass.

Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Nonesuch Records | Style: Beyond Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Malnoia CD/LP/Track Review Malnoia
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 24, 2017
Read Get 'Em CD/LP/Track Review Get 'Em
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 24, 2017
Read Radioactive Landscapes EP CD/LP/Track Review Radioactive Landscapes EP
by Troy Dostert
Published: April 24, 2017
Read Wake Up Call CD/LP/Track Review Wake Up Call
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 24, 2017
Read The Many Minds of Richie Cole CD/LP/Track Review The Many Minds of Richie Cole
by Rob Rosenblum
Published: April 24, 2017
Read LifeCycle CD/LP/Track Review LifeCycle
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 23, 2017
Read "Kucheza" CD/LP/Track Review Kucheza
by Sacha O'Grady
Published: January 1, 2017
Read "The Tenth Muse" CD/LP/Track Review The Tenth Muse
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: April 7, 2017
Read "Day By Day" CD/LP/Track Review Day By Day
by Rob Rosenblum
Published: January 16, 2017
Read "Voices in the Void" CD/LP/Track Review Voices in the Void
by Glenn Astarita
Published: March 3, 2017
Read "Rising Grace" CD/LP/Track Review Rising Grace
by Mark Sullivan
Published: October 28, 2016
Read "The Eighth Hour Of Amduat" CD/LP/Track Review The Eighth Hour Of Amduat
by Troy Dostert
Published: January 17, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM RECORDS | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!