Sir Richard Bishop - "Rub' Al Khali" (Polytheistic Fragments)
Sir Richard Bishop is a “have guitar, will travel” kind of guy. Compare his solo tour itinerary with the road that his old band Sun City Girls logged over 25 years and you know you’re dealing with a man who is making up for lost time. Peruse his writing or his web pages and you’ll see that when he isn’t touring, he’s traveling.
He might want us to think that he wields the disparate styles on Polytheistic Fragments the way the many-limbed deity on the cover brandishes her various weapons and symbols of power, but I also think of a traveling salesman. “Can I interest you in some gypsy jazz? How about some hot country picking? Ah, perhaps the gentleman would prefer this non-idiomatic tangle of chords and stuttering notes?”
Polytheistic Gragments goes places that are pretty familiar, if you’ve been following Bishop for a while. He mostly sticks to guitar, although piano and tambura make an appearance on the quasi-Indian fantasia “Saraswati.” With its fleet Gallic leads over a briskly strummed rhythm, “Elysium Number Five” is his latest jaunty bit of Djangology, while “Rub’ Al Khali’s” oud-like tone and machine-gun runs take the road East over the Khyber Pass at a breakneck pace. “Cross My Palm With Silver” is a spirited Flamenco number. But Bishop is still searching out new destinations. “Hecate’s Dream,” which is named for the Greek goddess of the crossroads, is an eerie, electrified slide venture that is as desolate as anything Loren Connors has ever done.
And near the end of the record he goes country. On the unironically rustic “Tennessee Porch Swing,” he picks in a Merle Travis style, while the more propulsive and electrified “Canned Goods & Firearms” stutters like Chet Atkins’ at a livestock auction. “Ecstacies In The Open Air” is a desert walk as lush and romantic as anything in the Santo and Johnny songbook. Surely Bishop has something for you want to buy; just keep him away from your daughter.