Odds Against Tomorrow
If you’ve ever imagined what the common ground between John Fahey and Derek Bailey might sound like – then Bill Orcutt is your guy. He’s an Ornette Coleman-like guitarist. He’s equal parts punk, blues and jazz – as he cuts astonishing new shapes through old traditions. Primarily a soloist, Orcutt has, over the last two decades, been making strange noises on modified acoustic guitars (adding banjo strings or simply removing some of the strings altogether, inventing new things that very nearly resemble tunings…)
And here, on his latest there’s such a deceptive creep towards actual melody that Orcutt is now occupying a space between Bill Frisell and Marc Ribot; well, that’s certainly the case on his rendition of Moon River, which feel’s like if you played Frisell’s wondrous take on the standard atop of one of Ribot’s quirky covers – circa Rootless Cosmopolitans.
Those little licks of blues come in to play (Stray Dog) reminding you that for all Orcutt’s art-punk nonchalance his primary influence – the lightbulb moment – was hearing Muddy Waters. And if Muddy invented electricity – as far as blues guitar playing goes, as far as blowing the bloody doors off – then Orcutt likes to return and circle back around that moment before heading to delicate (Judith Reconsidered) and dazzling (All Your Buried Corpses Begin To Speak) places.
At just 30 minutes, this is as refined as his focus has been. Multi-tracked parts creating multiple layers. He’s like a free-jazz Ralph Towner. And on the calming closer, Man Dies, he’s basically just like Ralph Towner, more folk-shaped than he’s ever been. It brings to mind Willy Vlautin’s (novel) writing. Parts of this album feel like they could soundtrack any sad film, yet to hear them – without any set images to work with – it’s an ultimately very happy experience. My favourite Orcutt album to date.
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