Published Jan 30, 2017Listening to Bill Orcutt's rendition of "Ol' Man River," the most famous tune from the musical Show Boat, one might wonder if Bill Orcutt is indeed an album from the man himself. Of course, once he sparks up "Nearer My God to Thee," the nerve-fraying scrabble that signals the presence of the ex-Harry Pussy guitarist appears and all doubt is erased.
This collection of covers, spattered with a few originals, finds Orcutt eschewing his four-string Kay acoustic guitar, suppressing some of his blistering fury and ditching the un-blues, instead offering an array of early American song forms. His version of Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman" finds the guitarist squeezing every molecule of his soul into his instrument, evoking the sorrowful nature of the tune while hovering at a distance from the original Coleman/Cherry melody. A rendition of "Over the Rainbow" veers truer to the source material, without losing Orcutt's personality completely in the song itself; "When You Wish Upon a Star," however, is barely recognizable.
This clever play with fidelity really showcases Orcutt's instrumental prowess; no song form or genre is safe from his magic touch. (Palilalia)