Bill Frisell

If The Willies is any indication, Bill Frisell could probably make "Achy Breaky Heart" sound like a walk in the clouds. Here, the rangy jazz guitarist, banjo player (and Bad Liver) Danny Barnes, and bassist Keith Lowe revisit the terrain Frisell explored on 1995's Nashville, spinning a handful of folk and country standards (and a number of impressive originals) in his signature web of careful tone control and sleepily amniotic delay. It's such a narcotic sound, you might not notice the gaps between songs: The trio eases out of Hank Williams's "Cold, Cold Heart" and into Frisell's "I Know You Care" as if there were a napping baby in the room; producer Lee Townsend captures their playing with the same attention to detail he brought to The Sweetest Punch, Frisell's ultra-smooth reading of Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach's 1998 collaboration, Painted From Memory. Yet in his taming of these scorched earth-tone poems, Frisell doesn't go entirely defanged: His trademark harmonic sense lurks right beneath the placid surface, occasionally ascending, as on the bluegrass standard "Cluck Old Hen" — tiny ripples of dissonance remind you that you're not quite dreaming.


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