Bill Frisell ‘Folk Songs Vol. 1’ (Nonesuch) 4/5

Here is a compilation of Bill Frisell’s works that will appeal to a broad canvass of listeners and not exclusively those of a jazz persuasion. The CD chronicles a decade of beautifully crafted songs on a series of thematic albums that range from country folk and blues to pared down acoustic jazz, and above all it is the melodic nature of the compositions and the sheer virtuosity of the playing that comes shining through. As Elvis Costello writes in the inner sleeve notes, Frisell defies petty categorisation and this thrilling overview reinforces the argument of the guitarist being a master practitioner of Americana. Multiple influences abound from John Fahey on the gorgeous rendition of the Carter family favourite ‘Wildwood flower’ to the decidedly Pat Metheny feel of ‘Gone just like a train’ and in general a jazzier nod to the works of Ry Cooder. Formats oscillate between trio and solo outings and somehow Frisell finds his own voice with songs that are predominantly from his own pen. As a whole this works extremely well and for newcomers to Bill Frisell is an ideal place to begin visiting his back catalogue.

Tim Stenhouse