Whether your idea of a great guitarist is Jimi Hendrix, John Fahey, Wes Montgomery, Link Wray, John McLaughlin, or Ry Cooder, you’re bound to like something of Bill Frisell. The man is a modest and unassuming musician who is in perpetual motion, playing ragtime, jazz, ambient, rock, bluegrass, and experimental noise.[audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/17-Have-A-Little-Faith-In-Me.mp3|titles=Bill Frissell:Have a Little Faith in Me] [audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/07-In-Line.mp3|titles=Bill Frissell:In Line]
Frisell always seems to have been around, collaborating with Elvis Costello, John Zorn, Ginger Baker, David Sylvian, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Arto Lindsay, Suzanne Vega, Paul Simon, Vic Chestnutt, David Sanborn, Brian Eno, Bono, Jon Hassell, Daniel Lanois, Rickie Lee Jones, Vernon Reid, Elliot Sharp, Van Dyke Parks, Loudon Wainwright, and Earth.[audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/07-Im-So-Lonesome-I-Could-Cry.mp3|titles=Bill Frissell:I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry] [audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/1-06-A-Hard-Rains-A-Gonna-Fall.mp3|titles=Bill Frissell: A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall]
My first recognition of his solo work was with his gorgeous instrumental covers of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like A Woman” and John Hiatt’s “Have A Little Faith In Me.” The height of my fandom came when I saw him perform a live soundtrack to films of Buster Keaton (I am in fact a card-carrying member of the International Buster Keaton Society) in Brooklyn.[audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/1-01-I-Heard-It-Through-the-Grapevine.mp3|titles=Bill Frissell: I Heard it Through the Grapevine] [audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Blues-For-Los-Angeles.mp3|titles=Bill Frissell: Blues for Los Angeles]
There is something about Frisell’s Americana, something that carries a sense of appreciation of quality, style, wit, and gumption. His Fender Telecaster has provenance, proudly yet quietly displaying its roots. We sense a cultural heritage, listening to his covers and originals, downtown jazz, dive-bomber blues, nostalgic pastiche, country twang, digital loops, or any other genre he sits down to play.
Do you have a favorite he’s contributed to?