Review of Ghost Town by Bill Frisell, Nonesuch Records, 1999
I think there’s something very nice, honest and sincere in the music of Bill Frisell. Something that is inherent in the sound of his guitars. Like in this abbandoned Ghost Town, his first solo work, which is admirably divided between electric guitar, acoustic guitar with the addition of some electrical loops. What we listen to this record is the Frisell we always know: innovative yet melodic, noisy but at the same time inside the tradition, but sometimes introspective to the sweeter melancholy.
This his Ghost Town, an archaeological remnant of the past, among its decaying but still standing proudly ruins on testimony of a past full of life, of struggles, of blood and laughters he moves his compositions mentioning past and present music . Frisell is a guitarist with an intelligence and superfine technique who decided to give up these properties to humbly work at the service of the music, his and others music, as evidenced by the heartfelt tribute to John Mclaughlin (Follow Your Heart) , the homage to Gershwin’s brothers with the immortal My Man’s Gone Now from Porgy and Bess and I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry by Hank Williams, all reinterpreted so minimal and essential, drying them to the bone.
And then the blues, American folk music, the great depression, jazz peeping sly sometimes to remind us that in this ghost town, where at the same time we can hear the howling wind, the cries of ghosts, the past that does not find any peace.
Ghost Town is a small abandoned town, lost somewhere in the American prairie, a little battered, faded by time and consumed by the wind, but a little later in the rapids of the river we can listen to playing John Fahey, Charlie Christian, Mississippi John Hurt and Gary Davis.
Bill Frisell is a gentle giant of modern guitar, pure in his jazz-influenced mission to uncover and reinvent American music across disparate styles.