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Thursday, April 13, 2023

Bill Orcutt - Jump on it (Palilalia, 2023)

By Guido Montegrandi

Ten years have passed from The History Of Everyone, the last acoustic studio recording released by Bill Orcutt. In this span of time there have been a couple of episodes where electric and acoustic mixed (Why Four String?, 2017) and a live session recorded in 2015 but released in 2020 (Reasons Why I Am Great). All of these are in the wake of the great American songbook, traditional and standards that Bill Orcutt played, deconstructed, made pass through the cut up machine of his four string guitar often coupled with his singing/ muttering voice in the background. Of course these ten years have also seen the electric Orcutt with a work following the same line of American Songbook (Bill Orcutt, 2017), two works with Chris Corsano, and then a return to original composition in Odds Against Tomorrow (2019) and Music for Four Guitars (2022). Now this record goes back to acoustic and discloses ten original compositions.

That is enough history - now, what about the music?

Tom Carter's description inform us that “Jump On It is a collection of canonical, mature acoustic guitar soli to contrast against the fractured downtown conceits of previous acoustic releases” and that’s what it is. The sound is full of reverb, the pieces quite short and with a tendency for lyricism. It may remind of some of John Fahey records like the Voice Of The Turtle or The Transfiguration Of Blind Joe Death but more in the intention than in the practice and even when the music is denser as in 'New Gems' or 'In A Column Of Air,' there is almost no angularity and it all flows with an evocative quality. Moreover, the background voice has disappeared and we are left with just some sparse breath and music. And music is constructed around cellular structures connected by run of notes, reverb and silence showing a close relationship with the ideas developed in Music For Four Guitars (as it is also pointed out in the description notes). The opening track is titled 'What Do You Do With Memory' and this may be a key to what this record is about: memory in some of its different meanings, as recollection if you are more Wordsworthian, as data storage if you are more inclined to computer science or just memory of great American guitar music, and after having visited many popular songs through the years, this is his personal contribution to the songbook .

Anyway, my impression is that these ten pieces offer us another side of Bill Orcutt's guitar style, one that ponders each note with grace and irony - it's a good way to spend half an hour. Mesmerizing.

You can listen and download in on Bandcamp

or buy the CD or the LP on