Saturday, November 21, 2009

Current listening: Bill Frizzel and Tom Waits

Tom Waits and Bill Frisell both have an uncanny ability to "inhabit" the songs they play . To me they are musical craftsmen, who have honed their art over long careers. Their music conveys a distinctive emotionality and expresses a sense of wonder and gravitas at the world.

In Wait's case it is the atmosphere he crafts, a combination of his voice, instrumentation and performance style, and the power and artistry of his lyrics. Frisell invests his acoustic and electric guitar with a distinctive "human" voice, that like Waits, is uniquely his.

The best of Bill Frisell Vol 1: Folk Songs, which draws from his various solo works, is one of my favourite CDs of 2009. Instrumental albums by guitarists can be one dimensional, sounding much the same, but not Frisell. This is music of such depth, diversity and richness. Whether playing acoustic or electric guitar he has a lightness of touch, as well as a capacity to interpret songs in a unique way. The John Hiatt song "Have a Little Faith in Me" and the American folk tune "Shenandoah" come alive in his hands.

The Independent
gives the album five stars, referring to the CD's "beautiful, ringing musicality: 15 pieces of fathomless depth played with the freshness and simplicity that only genius brings. Make your world anew and treat yourself." Pretty accurate description.

In preparation for the release of Tom Waits's new live album
Glitter and Doom Live I have been revisiting his back catalog, particularly the 2006 3 CD compilation Orphans which includes 56 rarities, outtakes and songs written for purposes other than a Tom Waits CD. It is a sprawling epic of an album. For me there are many highlights but none better than "Down There by the Train", a song of immense compassion and humanity. I have written before of the depth of Waits compassion for the subjects of his songs and this is no better reflection of that quality. I can't wait for his new live CD. A review of the new live album is here

No comments: