Sir Richard Bishop Polytheistic Fragments

[Drag City; 2007]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: melodic folk, transcendental guitar
Others: John Fahey, Robbie Basho, Ennio Morricone, Six Organs of Admittance

Describing the guitar prowess of Sir Richard Bishop is one of the hardest undertakings known to mortal man. Bishop, over the course of 20+ years, has set the world ablaze by playing so dazzlingly, intricately, and maddeningly that legions of fans worship him and his Sun City Girls counterparts as if they were higher beings. And with his latest solo offering, Polytheistic Fragments, debates about Bishop's godliness will only become increasingly serious.

Polytheistic Fragments continues where most recent Bishop albums left off, blending transcendental swatches of the Middle East and India with the dark, twisted ideologies of Spaghetti Western shootouts and showdowns. As inspirational and awe-inspiring as ever, the musical approach is overshadowed by Bishop's ever-growing musical repertoire. The album takes a daring chance by introducing a few elements from more familiar genres: pop, R&B, and country. Playfully dancing from the somber and frantic “Cross My Palm with Silver” (at home anywhere in Sergio Leone's Dollars Trilogy) to the carefree and breezy “Elysium Number Five,” Bishop marries distinct ideas into a cohesive rhythm, despite the disparities in pace and style.

Whether through the heartbreak of “Rub' Al Khali,” the devilish charm of “Cemetery Games,” or the honky tonk of “Canned Goods and Firearms,” Sir Richard Bishop has released a very strong album, without even a stumble from looking backwards. Refusing to let up until well after the majestic beauty of concluding track “Ecstasies in the Open Air” has put you at ease, Bishop's ability to hold your attention with folksy songs that reference multiple styles and genres is breathtaking. Polytheistic Fragments is Bishop's most complete effort and serves as a lasting testament to his skills as both creator and listener.

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