The Best of Bill Frisell Vol. 1 - Folk Songs

1. I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry (3:30)
    2. Raccoon Cat (3:26)
    3. Sugar Baby (3:54)
    4. We're Not from Around Here (4:23)
    5. The Pioneers (5:23)
    6. Rag (4:09)
    7. Verona (3:09)
    8. Shenandoah (6:11)
    9. Ballroom (3:23)
    10. Have a Little Faith in Me (5:43)
    11. Mr. Memory (3:59)
    12. Wildwood Flower (6:25)
    13. Slow Dance (3:11)
    14. Sittin' on Top of the World (4:04)
    15. Poem for Eva (3:44)

Produced by Lee Townsend, except tracks 4, 6, 10 & 11 produced by Wayne Horvitz

All compositions written by Bill Frisell (Friz-Tone Music/BMI) except: "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" by Hank Williams (Sony/ATV/Acuff Rose Music/BMI), "Sugar Baby", "Shenandoah" and "Sittin' on Top of the World" (Traditional), "Have a Little Faith In Me" by John Hiatt (Lillybilly Music/BUG/BMI), "Wildwood Flower" by A.P. Carter (PRS/BMI)

Nonesuch Records, 2009

    Tracks 1, 12 from Ghost Town (Nonesuch Records)
    Bill Frisell, electric and acoustic guitars (1), acoustic guitar (12)
    Recording and Mixing Engineer: Christian Jones

    Tracks 2, 7, 9 from Gone, Just Like a Train (Nonesuch Records)
    Bill Frisell, acoustic guitar
    Viktor Krauss, bass
    Jim Keltner, drums (2, 9), drums and percussion (7)
    Recording and Mixing Engineer: Judy Clapp

    Tracks 3, 14 from The Willies (Nonesuch Records)
    Bill Frisell, acoustic guitar (3), acoustic and electric guitars (14)
    Danny Barnes, banjo
    Keith Lowe, bass
    Recording and Mixing Engineer: Tucker Martine

    Tracks 4, 11 from Nashville (Nonesuch Records)
    Bill Frisell, electric guitar (4), acoustic guitar (11)
    Jerry Douglas, dobro
    Viktor Krauss, bass
    Recording Engineer: Roger Moutenot

    Tracks 5, 8, 15 from Good God, Happy Man (Nonesuch Records)
    Bill Frisell, electric guitar and loop (5), acoustic guitar (8), electric and acoustic guitars (15)
    Ry Cooder, electric and Ripley guitar (8)
    Greg Leisz, pedal steel (5, 15)
    Wayne Horvitz, organ (5, 15)
    Viktor Krauss, bass
    Jim Keltner, drums (5, 8), drums and percussion (15)
    Recording and Mixing Engineer: Judy Clapp

    Track 6 from Is That You? (Nonesuch Records)
    Bill Frisell, acoustic guitar
    Recording Engineer: Jay Follette
    Mixing Engineer: Roger Moutenot

    Track 10 from Have a Little Faith (Nonesuch Records)
    Bill Frisell, guitar
    Kermit Driscoll, bass
    Joey Baron, drums
    Recording and Mixing Engineer: Joe Ferla

    Track 13 from Blues Dream (Nonesuch Records)
    Bill Frisell, electric guitar
    Greg Leisz, dobro
    David Piltch, bass
    Kenny Wollesen, drums
    Recording and Mixing Engineer: Judy Clapp


The Marx Brothers' old studio was cluttered with infernal engines and dastardly contraptions.  These exotically named instruments — the Cloud Chamber Bowls, the Harmonic Canon, the Chromelodeon and a bass marimba as big as a railway sleeper — sprang from the imagination and craftsman's hands of the composer, Harry Partch.

Now they were to provide the accompaniment for a new version of "Weird Nightmare" which was to be featured on Hal Wilner's record of music by Charles Mingus.

I was in a vocal booth, clinging to the key of D minor as minute fractions of a microtonal scale floated by in a Balinese cloud. They were attempting to drag my ear all the way west to Java.

We arrived at the bridge of the song. A small horn section entered but it was upon a progression of consonant guitar chords that my voice landed with some relief.

This is how I first met Bill Frisell.

It should have been no surprise that he would be involved in an adventure where the inventions of two great American artists collided, but until then I had only known him from his recordings.

In years to come, whether he was investigating the music of Monk with Paul Motian and Joe Lovano at the Village Vanguard or recording in the company of Nashville's finest string band players or responding to the drumming of Jim Keltner which might be the rock'n'rhumba equivalent of being driven along by Elvin Jones — there was always that surprise hidden within Bill's instantly recognizable instrumental voice.
Even when he ventures out into the "Far Side," Bill Frisell is always an American folk musician. That is, he works with all the music made by American folk.

In 1995, I called Bill in Seattle from London to discuss his appearance at the festival I was directing. At first, I thought the operator might have mistakenly connected me to the home of the actor James Stewart.

This vocal resemblance actually goes a little deeper than coincidence.

Listen to the Frisell guitar phrasing and you will often hear a familiar but charming opening statement, an unexpected hesitation, and then the proposal of an entirely improbable angle to the first thought, followed by a burst of dizzying inspiration.

However modern he sounds, there is always some old-world courtesy in his playing.

Bill arrived for his "solo" concert in London with a trio of guitar, Chinese violin and trumpet. Later in the season, we played a two-man concert taking in his transcriptions of my songs, Lerner and Loewe's "Gigi" and our sole co-composition to date, "Deep Dead Blue."
It is always a joy to share the stage with Bill, whether at a song festival in an old Krups armaments factory in Germany or onstage at the Apollo Theater, Harlem, playing Harold Arlen's "If I Only Had a Brain" on a television show.

Bill's good humor and tact almost managed to save an appallingly badly organized birthday concert for Lee Konitz, held in a shoddy little New York dive.

I had been invited to take part but after one of the musicians felt it was beneath him to share a stage with me, I decided departure was the better part of valor.

Unfortunately, the management still saw an opportunity to bilk patrons out of their cash on the basis of my "appearance." A black comedy ensued, as fist-fights broke out between members of the audience and the management, while Lee and Bill blew wild and free with little reference to the proposed setlist.

Only a man of Bill's calm could come through such a debacle unscathed.

Bill continues to amze me with his masterful but innately modest embrace of musical idioms. He is one of America's most unique musicians.
We now live in a time where I believe we all hear very well beyond the old stop-signs and signposts of "jazz" and "folk." The work of the composer can blur and meld with the art of interpretation and reinvention.

For Bill Frisell, this might take in the songs of Leon Payne, Governor Jimmie Davis, the Carter Family, Bob Dylan or Hazel Dickens. Great American voices all, and to which you can add the name of Bill Frisell.

— Elvis Costello



As an artist who's spent his life gently dissolving the boundaries between genres, Mr. Frisell would doubtless afford himself a quiet smile that his songs should now be anthologized under such tags as "Folk".  Even Elvis Costello's sleeve notes recognize that many contemporary listeners barely recognize the "old stop signs of "jazz" or "folk".  And if the music company does insist on sifting Frisell's music into various buckets, then surely this one should be tagged "Country", because there lie the roots Frisell taps in this collection.  But even given that, most songs here are originals, while the Country guests, a halcyon bunch, colour barely half the tracks. So the country we're visiting here is really Frisellia, with its familiar landscapes of echoey effects, sweet melody, suspended chords, an horizonless sense of space, aching beauty, tempos reduced to an airy stillness, deep affection and a blessed freedom from irony.  The classic here is "Shenandoah" a duet with Ry Cooder that's as wide as that rolling river and is dedicated to the ridiculously unremembered Johnny Smith.  Just file under damn fine music.  And start saving for Volume II. - Andy Robson, Jazzwise