Bill Frisell – Disfarmer (8/10)

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Veteran avant-jazz guitarist Bill Frisell prepared this set as a celebration of the work of Depression-era Arkansas portrait photographer Mike Disfarmer. With a band consisting of stand-up bass, steel guitar, and fiddle, for the most part Frisell plays it pretty straight. The best tracks (such as Little Girl) have a ragged, haunting edge to them, coming over like a genteel, dinner party friendly version of The Dirty Three. He also throws in covers of Hank Williams’s Lovesick Blues and Elvis’s That’s All Right Mama.

In some ways these old country blues tunes are the musical equivalent of Disfarmer’s portraits: works which began life as poor vernacular that over time have been elevated to classic, near mystical levels.

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