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Album: Bill Frisell, Sign of Life (Savoy)

Guitarist Frisell has been straddling the gap between bluegrass-picking and the plinky-plonk avant garde for years but this latest recording, the second with his 858 string quartet, marks a return to peak form. All 17 tunes are Frisell compositions but the band's extempore arrangements deliver intricately worked variations on fiddle and guitar breakdowns and big-vista American pastoralism, as well as a little bit of squeaky-gate improv. The sound sparkles like springwater.