Posts Tagged ‘Bill Orcutt’

Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt – “Some Tennesse Jar”

Both the names on this one have been busy since their last outing, which was only in 2018, but seems like forever at this pint. Its good to hear them back in company again and finding new crevices of sound to burrow into. There’s immediately a looser feel to “Some Tennessee Jar” than when these two last met in the recorded groove. Brace Up! was brittle and blunt — not to say it wasn’t nuanced — but it was a wrecking ball of an album that hit from all sides. Here Orcutt and Corsano are picking at a dizzying blues of sorts. Blues in the sense that Mingus used to pick them apart and put them back together into complex patterns that still beat with the same heart of the lone back porch picker looking to tangle emotions through the steel strings. There’s not a stomp of groove on the track — Corsano has never been so direct — but the circular nature of the song swims through a delta of some sort, swelling itself with ghosts of Sharrock thrown into the stark Mapplethorpe relief of Verlaine’s iced riffs. The record arrives on Bill’s label Palilalia on March 26th and from this early taste, it feels like an essential one.




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RSTB Best of 2019

2019’s drawing to a close, so I suppose this is the place to tie it all up. I’ve mentioned in years past that ‘best’ is a hard line to draw around the music from the year. From a blog perspective ‘favorite’ seems more appropriate, but then for all intents and purposes my choices are qualitatively the best to me, if not necessarily quantitatively best in the sense of the zeitgeist. The drive to figure out what’s best seems to just consolidate consensus and we’re all treated to dozens of lists that cross over with each other, especially in the top spots. I’ve long been a proponent of niche. I say long live finding your voice and letting others find theirs – we can all compare notes and discover new music in the process. I don’t need anyone to sand the edges and offer up a list that’s all inclusive. I like the edges. These are my favorites from a great year, edges and all.

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Bill Orcutt

After years of disassembling the notions of song through the divinations of his guitar, Bill Orcutt is putting them back together, albeit with his own slant on what folk and blues are meant to be. Orcutt’s always had a knack for taking songforms into less comfortable territory, letting his runs ruffle rather than soothe the soul, all while shaking the American Songbook by its ankles. He’s found a cache of secret notes between the pages of that songbook and he’s pulled a few of them into his own compositions for a ride that’s both familiar and transformative. The record roots itself in the same fingerpicked folk that might rear its head on a Richard Bishop or Fahey album and the same syncopated blues that informed players from the porches to the stage, but like Tetuzi Akiyama, Loren Connors, or 75 Dollar Bill alongside him, he’s taken the riff and ramble and given them teeth.

His runs aren’t pure, and we should all be thankful for that. When Orcutt runs the boogie down he’s bound to bend bones to the point of breaking if the listener is inspired to movement. Don’t nod along too hard lest you strain a ligament, y’know. His acoustic runs still bring forth the image of natural splendor, but there’s a taste of man-made disaster in there as well. In his vision trees are uprooted and twisted with power lines and smells of charred wood mingle with verdant moss. Orcutt goes to the well and brings back the elements of life, but not before letting a bit of blood loose in the water. We are nourished and slightly poisoned at the same time. As usual he’s proven a master of his forms, but just as usual he’s taken expectation and kicked it into the dirt. There are others that have tried, but few that can find that same singular light that Orcutt brings to an album.




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Chris Corsano on Betty Harris “There’s A Break In The Road”

Part two of the Orcutt-Corsano Hidden Gems naturally falls to Chris Corsano’s pick. There are no real set rules to this feature and even if there were I’d break them all the same for this pick. Chris eschews the album focus in favor of a soul single that’s anchored deep by a drumming legend. As Chris is himself a powerhouse collaborator who elevates any project he anchors, its wise to sit up and listen when he’s recommending a song based on how hard the drummer sweats it out. If you’re unfamiliar with Corsano’s catalog, then its fair to say you might have missed a great deal of the best moments in experimental music in the last decade. Aside from his multiple collaborations with Bill Orcutt he’s found himself crumbling the cosmos alongside Joe McPhee, Paul Flaherty, Okkyung Lee, Bill Nace, Nels Cline and Thurston Moore among others. Check out Corsano’s discovery of Betty Harris’ 1969 single and the world shaking impact its had on him.

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Bill Orcutt on James Blood Ulmer – Odyssey

This week I’ve got a two-parter Hidden Gems that focuses on a couple of underground legends. In anticipation of the release of their latest collaboration, Brace Up!, both Bill Orcutt and Chris Corsano have contributed picks to the series. I’m starting here with Orcutt, whose singular guitar style defies all schools of tradition. As such, he gravitates to a guitarist who’d been flouting conventions long before him and it seems fitting that Bill has payed tribute to the great James Blood Ulmer here. Orcutt has built an enviable catalog of works going back to his ’90s work with the seminal Harry Pussy and on through collaborations with Alan Bishop, Michael Morley, Circuit des Yeux and Loren Connors. Check below for how Ulmer’s work came into the life of Orcutt and how Odyssey impacted his own musical journey.

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Bill Orcutt

Traditionally Orcutt has sunk his teeth into acoustic guitar, expressing pain and the purgatory of the soul through the tangled strings of a trusty Kay filled with ghosts. It seems time, though, that he gives his caustic reverberations life through electricity and on his eponymous LP, he does just that. The album approaches and rejects accessibility, throwing interpretations of Ornette Coleman into the same bucket as traditional chum like “When You Wish Upon A Star,” “Over The Rainbow,” and “Ol Man River.” The latter tropes are rendered fairly unrecognizable through Orcutt’s lens, however, and it’s freeing to have him set a few classics on fire with the soul of Loren Connors.

Some of these songs have appeared in one form or another on Orcutt’s acoustic albums, but each is given a new life and new teeth for this record. The tumble of notes that spring from Orcutt’s explosive tangles are only tempered by the ringing spaces that he leaves hanging on the air. Anger and confusion lead to calm exhaustion, like a child all cried out and forgetting what the fight was about. The dissonance, and resonance of this album pushes through the platitudes of the source material to find a new resolve that strips pretty much any care from your body like a full salt scrub performed with power sanders.

It’s tempting to blanch at the chaos and din that Orcutt makes, but the trick is letting go. It’s a Magic Eye of an album, once your consciousness is relaxed and not fighting to find a thread, only then does it untether your lizard brain from the shackles of reasoning and resistance to let the picture form. Then the true magic happens and this chaos lifts to the heavens. Meditation through barrage, perhaps there’s a new movement brewing.




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