11.21.2010

Biffle is a musical genius

You all know that Biffle plays music almost continuously around Charleston--playing bluegrass, folk, country, and Irish tunes for lots of bands.  He's the kind of musician who can play things with strings (so far guitar, banjo, bass, mandolin on a regular basis for money), and he can follow almost any song.  Like, he's never heard it before, it's in a genre he's not familiar with, and he can play it.  Quite well.  He's sometimes surprised when other people can't do this, but I think it's a pretty unusual skill.

What you might not know (or remember) is that Biffle's greater talent is in songwriting.  Here lately he, Maybelle, and I have been listening to some newish Dan Wilson songs (you know, formerly of Trip Shakespeare).  I'm really enjoying his work, but it has struck me on multiple occasions that Dan Wilson is almost as bold as Biffle in songwriting.  He's not quite as willing to layer on the vocals and sounds, to go over the top with harmonies.  I listened not long ago to one of Biffle's older songs, called "Fire," and I was astonished at the harmonies--what, like twenty voices singing different notes?  Crazy stuff, stuff that couldn't be sold to a mainstream market, and so satisfying and brilliant.  (Maybe we can get that song online soon so you can hear it.)

And what do you know, but last week, while I was at the NWSA Conference, Biffle wrote a new song.  It's called "Sabotage," and it's the kind of work of Biffle's that I can't get enough of.  I guess I've listened to it 57 times by now.  I'm feeling moved to interpret it (the complex emotions of the lyrics and how they interact with the sound), but I think I'll just leave it to you as listeners to figure out.  Or perhaps I'll blog more about it later.

3 comments:

Jay said...

Awesome, more please.

Cate Bush said...

Enjoyed the song. Walter is one of my favorite artists :).

Quiche said...

I agree with Alison- genius! Beautiful. I'm a lifelong Walt Biffle fan and friend (: I can relate well to the lyrics....brought tears to my eyes.

If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when? -Rabbi Hillel