Thursday, January 08, 2004

Bill Frisell – Have a Little Faith (Nonesuch, 1992)

Bill Frisell is an iconoclast and someone who has a penchant for experimenting. Not necessarily on the wild edge of music, although he has certainly done that with John Zorn and others. Frisell’s experimenting comes through investigating different types of music, from the roots and country that were present in recent albums like Nashville and Good Dog, Happy Man or world music of The Intercontientals (#1 album, 2003).

This was the record that first gained him recognition as musician who was willing to step outside of established norms and mix genres. What’s so fascinating about the music on this album is that it crosses over genre lines so easily, and diverse ones too – Aaron Copeland to Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan and Madonna are all represented on this wide ranging slice of Americana.

None of the tunes are played as parody either, all can be taken as face value as a broad investigation of the depth and width of American composition as seen through the eyes of a modern improvising musician. The melody of Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman” is played in a keening country-like fashion which foreshadows some of Frisell’s more roots-oriented work. Muddy Waters’ “Can’t be Satisfied” is played as a good time rave up, with Don Byron taking Little Walter’s harmonica part on clarinet. Maybe the biggest surprise is Madonna’s “Live to Tell” which could be expected to come off as a joke, but is actually played straight ahead, right from the melody.

Rating: 10 (all time favorite)

Send comments to: Tim