Three Broken Records, Vol. 5
Marc Ribot is a unique guitarist from the "downtown" scene known for creating interesting textures and sounds with his instrument more than virtuosic technique. Silent Movies is a stark, exposed solo guitar album that highlights my favorite aspects of Ribot's playing--especially his willingness to let flaws be part of the music, similar to Miles Davis cracking notes or playing with a very breathy tone. It's a very humanizing approach to music that many instrumentalists practice to eliminate instead of harness. This album isn't for everyone, but if you enjoy brooding solo guitar and simple melodic themes, I highly recommend Silent Movies.
Before buying The Majestic Silver Strings, I'd only heard a little Buddy Miller. A friend sent me a link to this album on NPR, and once I realized "The Majestic Silver Strings" were Bill Frisell, Marc Ribot, and Greg Leisz, I picked it up without even listening to a note of music. As I mentioned above, I'm a Marc Ribot fan. If you've known me for any length of time, you probably know Bill Frisell is a huge influence, and Frisell often employs Greg Leisz on some of my favorite albums. Despite the heavy lineup, the arrangements are very tasty, always putting the song first, and perfectly accompanying Buddy and the all-star list of guest vocalists. My favorite tune is the last, featuring Buddy Miller and his daughter Julie, singing to a melody Frisell wrote for his Disfarmer album.
One artist I've been listening to a lot, but have yet to mention in a Three Broken Records post, is Ry Cooder. I recently picked up his first album on vinyl, which concludes with an instrumental track called "Dark Is The Night." Turns out that song is originally by Blind Willie Johnson, a master of gospel/blues guitar. Though not related, his playing is similar to Robert Johnson. His vocal style is quite different, and he sings gospel songs, not blues. I hadn't listened to much Blind Willie Johnson before, but I bought The Complete Blind Willie Johnson to get all 30 of his recordings and have been digesting a little more of his playing every day.