(08 May 2005) Petra Haden and Bill Frisell may not have names as recognizable as Britney Spears and Usher but many of us are familiar with the work and probably don't even know it. Bill Frisell is one of the world's most critically acclaimed guitarists and, in addition to his solo albums, he has worked with such artists as Elvis Costello, Bono, Daniel Lanois, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic among others.
Vocalist/violinist Petra Haden is the daughter--one of the triplets--of legendary jazz artist Charlie Haden. She spent much of the early nineties as a part of the indie-pop band That Dog and since their dissolution has appeared on albums by Beck, Green Day, Sean Lennon, Victoria Williams, and many many more. Just seeing this collective resume sets high expectations for this recording.
Petra Haden and Bill Frisell (Sovereign Artists (USA) 1956-2, 2005) is an odd collection of songs from many artists. The album includes modern cover songs such as Coldplay's "Yellow" and Elliot Smith's "Satellite" as well as classics such as Stevie Wonder's "I Believe" and Tom Waits "I Don't Wanna Grow Up." It's the inclusion of songs like "When You Wish Upon a Star" and "Moon River" though that raise this album far above the average collection of cover songs.
The inclusion of some showtunes and traditional favorites gives this album tremendous depth. If you're not careful you may begin to think that these are all Bill and Petra's original songs. While many of the songs stick to their well known melodies, Petra Haden's vocal work shines and certainly helps to make each song their own. There are multiple vocal layers on each song and Petra's harmonies are nearly perfect although it is Bill's subtle and emotive guitar work that pulls the reigns back and keeps each song at its best.
Also included are two original songs, one written by Petra Haden and one written by Bill Frisell. Both songs have a dreamy sort of artistic pop sound that is both unique and creative. Neither song has lyrics, yet Petra's vocalise clearly establishes the melody of each song and by the end you will surely attempt to sing along.
This is an excellent CD if you are looking for something that is a bit out of the ordinary. Unlike many "creative" artists albums there is nothing harsh or crazy sounding to be found. The record is very subdued and emotive and really allows the songs to shine in a way that they never have before.
If you are a fan of great singers, great guitar players, or just peaceful sounding beautiful music that is both catchy and thoughtful then this album is for you.--Mark Fisher