Album Review: A History of Every One by Bill Orcutt
Exceptionally Good, Based on 3 Critics
Tiny Mix Tapes - 90 Based on rating 4.5/5
It would be easy to listen to ex-Harry Pussy guitar master Bill Orcutt’s new album A History Of Every One without noticing that it features a “version” of Disney’s saccharine, bullshit nocturne “When You Wish Upon A Star” right next to one of “Black Betty,” which Alan Lomax claimed was about the whip used in southern prisons. Orcutt’s mesmerizing runs on the fretboard obscure the fact that he is juxtaposing the feel-good, racist schlock-piece “Zip A Dee Doo Dah” with one of the most sexually-charged, transgressive songs in the Delta blues songbook, “Black Snake Moan. ” It even closes with a minstrel song, the typical lyrics of which are about slaves lamenting their dead master.
Bill Orcutt’s guitar playing is all about possibilities. As he unfurls impulsive runs and quick turns, each move opens a web of new paths he could travel. As a result, when I listen to his albums I end up thinking as much about what could happen as what is happening. But then Orcutt’s plucks and strums are usually so quick and idea-filled, it sometimes feels like everything that could happen actually is happening.
Bill Orcutt's rather fast and loose approach to covering other people's songs was first indicated on A New Way To Pay Old Debts, where the listener was treated to a robustly un-like version of Lightnin' Hopkins' 'Sad News From Korea'. Though one was hard placed to recognise the original's melody under Orcutt's liberal interpretation, there was something that definitively caught the source's spirit in the guitarist's grit and attack. In one sense then, A History Of Every One should come as no major surprise.