This album came out back in 2000 to a fuckton of ruffled feathers all screaming out, “This isn’t jazz!” My answer to these pigeonholing chickenshits: no, it’s not jazz. And? Then another group of peacocking fucks started yelling out, “This is just some strange atmospheric guitar!” My answer: sure, if that’s what you consider one of the greatest guitarist’s first solo albums, then, ya. And, what the fuck is wrong with that?
I remember going to a festival where they invited a bunch of different musicians to play on stage at once. It was one of these overly noble attempts to have musicians, that have never met, collaborate on a song while an audience watches the result live. Frisell shared the stage with two other poor fucks I barely remember. Those two had some passing esteem as they each had a song that was popular at that time. The crowd hooped and hollered as they walked out. Nobody clapped for Frisell. Don’t get me wrong, I would have. I would have shout my fucking lungs out like a banshee birthing a beaded bass boat. But I was so starstruck that my bones had turned to chalk. I couldn’t move. After the two fucks played out their hits, they decided to give the nerdy dude a chance to play with “the big boys”. Whoopsie-daisy. Frisell, a kind and humble man (which also happens to be a grandmaster at improvisation), told them to pick a song. He’d play along in the back. They chugged out a simple tune, harmonized on the chorus, and felt like musical gods until the swelling took over. This rush grew louder as layers of sound were added to it. The two fucks turned around to see Bill, with his trusty assortment of guitar pedals and with his eyes closed, slowly shaking his head to this celestial rhythm. Twenty minutes later, I remember someone asking one of the poor fucks at the side of the stage if he was going to play again. He shout his answer over the dense transcendental reverb of Bill’s layered guitar, “What’s the point!”
This album doesn’t kick to the face. It doesn’t have to. It doesn’t try to impress with thick meaty cocks, fireworks, or tits on full rotation. It plays like the ocean rises. Even though you don’t notice it, that motherfucker is unstoppable, all powerful, and is brimming with life and death. On this album, Frisell layers a bunch of shit with guitars, banjos, and bass guitars. He plays a couple of recognizable numbers like Hank Williams, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, Gershwin’s “My Man’s Gone Now”, and the ever popular, “When I Fall in Love”. This is an album I continually go back to. It’s good to play late at night while watching the stars, or on that Sunday morning after Saturday has kicked your fucking ass. There’s a depth of introspection to this album that sits alongside a strange darkness that feels as natural as gravity. Frisell is buddies with greats like Paul Motian and John Zorn. There’s a reason for this. He’s easily one of the most recognizable tones to ever finger an axe. And the dude can play anything: blues, rock, metal, jazz, honky-tonk, or bluegrass. He has even written for contemporary orchestras. Arguably, Bill is one greatest living musical minds. Motherfucker’s smooth rise and tremble could make Hendrix, Beck, and Clapton piss and shutter in their boots. But he doesn’t do that. He doesn’t have to. Generally, you’ll find Frisell sitting somewhere in a corner with a series of pedals, shaking his head to a celestial rhythm, and stealing the entire fucking show.