Sir Richard Bishop CD reviewed by Luc Rodgers
Sep 10, 2007, 01:58
SIR RICHARD BISHOP Polytheistic Fragments CD/LP
When one sees the term “virtuoso,” especially nestled against “guitar,” one thinks of boring, uber-outsider (to the point of commonplace jackoffery) bumblings that showcase the player's speed, ego, and poor taste. When posed with the question, “Is Sir Richard Bishop a virtuoso?” the answer is undoubtedly yes, very much so. What separates Bishop from his bookstore chair-creaking peers is taste, pure and simple. On Polytheistic Fragments he shows that he is not just another six-string sage by bringing the listener close so that they can hear and feel exactly what is being conveyed.
“Cross My Palm With Silver” begins the record as one would expect—quick, mystic strumming. It leads into a slower, delicate pickity-pick that lets an agreement be met between all that are present—“You know what I â€˜m capable of, now listen to me settle down so that you can actually enjoy it.” Melodic octaves ring underneath scales and runs galore filling up the air with wishes and no regrets. In “Hecate's Dream,” a slide guitar praise for the Greek Goddess of wilderness and childbirth, darkness and almost a mood of natural selection hover and swim in a dangerous wooded area. “”Free Masonic Guitar” showcases dim minor chords laid together in a bed of sweat and blood. The pace quickens and slows—an unpredictable nightmare with hints of morning light shining through with a plucked twang here only to wrestle again with the approaching cold air.
“Saraswati” showcases the piano and it is here that Bishop flounders slightly. The soft, improvised journey is damned by its purposeful laziness. Some of the melodies stand out, only to be blocked by lack of momentum. One feels that they constantly want more of this part and that part, but the whole just seems to fall a bit short from the rest of the album. It is not his piano ability to blame as “Cemetery Gates” proves; the short, dangerous track is a submerged car limiting one's time to escape. The water level rises over the dashboard and with one last breath you breach the surface to hear “Quiescent Return” welcoming the prodigal son home—a meditation in melodic reflection. It is in these times that Bishop truly saves the ears from the doldrums of where instrumental music ventures more often than not.
“Tennessee Porch Swing” and “Ecstasies in the Open Air” sit on the front stoop of Americana and take in both all that has become and what once was America, a lazy humid afternoon with Grandpa and tobacco. Bishop's easy rocking chair slide guitar satisfies without becoming trite—sharp, clean, and trustworthy. “Canned Goods & Firearms” beckons the weekend Car Show to the forefront with its Junior Brown dawdling and upright bass stability. With the slight string bends and drawn out phrases, Bishop is never far from improvising or skewing the commonality a song like this can easily become.
With a command spanning a multitude of genres and an execution so near to flawless, Sir Richard Bishop shouldn't be labeled a mere “instrumentalist” but a leader in a new way to think about what music can achieve. [Drag City]