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Iain Matthews on Bill Frisell

Iain Matthews is folk-rock royalty. Whilst delving deep into Americana, Iain was a founding member of British folk-rock legends, Fairport Convention. He went on to form Matthews Southern Comfort and Plainsong and has a humongous catalogue of music available.

Matthews Southern Comfort release their excellent new album on 27th March 2020. We thought that it was a superb album when we reviewed it earlier in the year, here.

In the latest in our Why I Love column, Iain writes for us about his love of Bill Frisell.

Bill Frisell: the most unlikely of guitar heroes
Bill Frisell

I don’t just like Bill Frisell’s music, I LOVE his music. I simply can’t get enough of it and I’m not quite sure why. I mean, it’s jazz and jazz is absolutely not my genre. That’s not to say I don’t like jazz, I just don’t understand it and every time I find myself melting over Frisell’s “Music is”, I wonder what it is that draws me to the man and his liquid creations. Plus, apart from a couple of brief instances, it’s all instrumentals and I’m a word man.

I think it’s his inventiveness that I love and envy. His seemingly casual way of knowing where he is and where he’s going at any given moment. I love his sense of melody. Not just his ability to pull breathtakingly gorgeous melodies from the wild blue yonder, but also his ability to create those melodies that burrow deep into a place that brings forth peace and satisfaction and occasionally tears.

He also has an inane quirkiness to his creativity, a way of making abrupt u-turns that can at times make me laugh out loud at the audaciousness of them.

There are two, three, maybe even four sides to Frisell. The purely jazz side, where, with a cheeky grin on his face, he can joust one on one with the likes of master pianist Fred Hersch, as on the “ Songs we know” album. Or his expeditions with bassist extraordinaire Dave Holland and saxophonist Joe Lovano.

But there are many facets to Frisell’s music. There’s the explorative Bill, as heard on “Blues Dream”, or “Gone Like A Train;” my favourite ‘go to’ Frisell albums. But there’s also the dazzling solo performer, sitting alone on stage, armed with his paisley Fender and an array of pedals and effects, casually creating layer upon layer of sonic bliss.

Bill is the master of what’s called sample and hold. Where he will develop a simple riff and at the tap of a button, digitally preserve it, taste what he made and build on it. Sometimes he will stack as many as
eight to ten sounds on top of each other, before deciding enough is enough and ‘poof’ its all gone, physically, spiritually, emotionally and creatively and….on to the next sublime magic trick.

Yet another side of Frisell is his innovative works with Scandinavian fiddler and viola player, Eivind Kang. Some, in desperation to categorise it, call it world music. To me it’s yet another extension of
the mans musical knowledge and ability to adapt. I find I have to concentrate harder on this ‘other side’ of Bill, but it’s ultimately just as rewarding. Magically, his loops and twirls and gyrations fit
perfectly in this genre. But how, I have no idea.

What I do know is that whenever I’m feeling a little, shall we say…frazzled, I can go to the packed Bill Frisell shelf, in my CD rack, close my eyes, run my fingers across the spines and blindly pull out any one of two dozen of his works, to be instantly carried away to a place of peace, wonder and bewilderment.

Bill Frisell, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for that. Oh, and by the way….when do you plan to make a duo album with Neil Young?

Absolutely huge thanks to Iain Matthews for writing for us. It is a real honour to have you with us to share your love of the music you love.

You can order Matthews Southern Comfort new album here. You can listen to a clip of the album below.

Matthews Southern Comfort are slated to appear at Fairport’s Cropredy Convention in August 2020.

Iain Matthews: Official Website / Facebook

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