A darker shade of Frisell

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Bill Frisell has a keen way of picking his ensembles.

From the rhythm section-less spookineses of the Bill Frisell Quartet to his work with members of Allison Krauss’ Union Station, Frisell has always managed to pluck the most haunting sounds from his collaborators.

With Ghost Town, Frisell reduces the number of players on this album to one — himself.

Judging by the credits on the cover, it’s easy to mistake Ghost Town as a solo virtuoso album — in the sense that Frisell plays only one instrument per track.

Not so. Frisell and producer Lee Townsend use the magic of multitrack recording to create one of the largest sounding recordings in the guitarist’s career.

Of course, there’s a lot of open spaces in Frisell’s music, so even a large recording is still intimate. And the album’s title fits the music well — imagine the musical equivalent of tumbleweeds tossing about in a dusty wind gusting through an abandoned town.

Frisell does a number of covers on this album, but his arrangements are so idiomatic to his playing, they sound just like his originals. I don’t think George Gershwin would recognize his own “My Man’s Gone Now.”

Personally, I prefer the version of Edward Heyman and Victor Young’s “When I Fall in Love” from Frisell’s cover album Have a Little Faith than the stacatto banjo version on Ghost Town.

On the whole, Frisell is a master of shading. He sounds like himself on all his albums, yet he makes enough distinction between them to warrant acquiring all, if not many of them — including Ghost Town.