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Big Sur by Bill Frisell
Released: Jun 2013
Label: Okeh/Sony Masterworks
Easygoing words like "tasteful" get tossed around when Frisell is in his Americana, country jazz mode, but it's actually hard to make this sort of fusion work. The guitarist's well-drilled band, which includes violinist Jenny Schienman, brings a lot to the humble themes: Check how the at-first unassuming "Sing Together Like a Family" acquires tart phrases, while the mini-suite "Gather Good Things" offers a few smart twists (plus Frisell's most distorted tones). Some other rockish numbers (like "The Big One") don't venture beyond basic blues. But the wheel doesn't always need reinventing.
Seth Colter Walls