Ribot's Guitar Musings
Bruce Von Stiers
I have to say, I was not very familiar with the name Marc Ribot. I don't know why, but his name and iconic guitar playing had somehow passed by me unnoticed. He's played on an album or two that I've reviewed, but I never really paid too much attention. But that changed when I read Ribot's book, Unstrung.
I have since learned that Ribot has recorded and released twenty-five albums with him being the main artists. And he has played on scores of other people's albums, including ones by Norah Jones, Allen Toussaint and The Black Keys. A Rolling Stone article stated that Ribot helped Tom Waits change the way Americana music was perceived.
In this book, Ribot has written a whole bunch of essays about music, musicians and unique people. He also has several short stories, that may or may not be autobiographical.
The full title for the book is Unstrung: Rants and Stories of a Noise Guitarist. It was published by Akashic Books.
The book is broken down into four parts. The first part is Lies And Distortions. The pieces in this section deal with guitars. How they are played, how they are interpreted and both the people who are listeners of the music and the artists who play it. As I wasn't very familiar with Ribot, I also wasn't familiar with some of the other artists he wrote about. One of those was Frantz Casseus, whose Haitian styled guitar music influenced Ribot's own. He had been Ribot's guitar tutor at one point. Other essays in this section detailed interactions with such people as Derek Bailey, Robert Quine and Henry Grimes. Not only did I learn about artists I was unfamiliar with, I also gained a bit of insight into the thoughts and musings of a multi-faceted guitarist.
The second section is titled Everybody's A Winner. But that might not exactly be the case in some of the stories in this section. There are stories of Jewish relatives and others who were a little off kilter. One where he reflects on a bit of poetry written as an assignment in grade school. And there was the story of Joan, who moves from childhood to middle age in a series of disjointed events. Life as a traveling musician is chronicled in a story about touring through Europe.
The third section is about what's known as film treatments, which are basically summaries that are used as fund raising elements or used to pitch a film to a TV network or film studio. The stories here are fun, somewhat bizarre, and possibly quite plausible.
The final section is filled with short stories that are kind of strange, but thoroughly entertaining. There is a story about a boy who grew up to be a major rock star that has a very weird but interesting ending. A story about a boy and trees could have been written by Steven King. In the short story, Botox, Ribot takes an Alfred Hitchcock turn. The story involves a wife with a specific facial expression, a husband with an annoying habit, Botox treatments and a frying pan. A bit twisted, but definitely fun to read.
Unstrung is a very interesting book. I learned a little bit about several musical artists I never knew about before. I was given an insight into the inner workings of a guitarist and his music. And I was treated to a series of entertaining stories, some of which might have been autobiographical, while others were the result of a vivid and somewhat skewed imagination.
Unstrung: Rants and Stories of A Noise Guitarist is currently available in hardback. Akashic Books will be releasing a paperback edition of the book in November, 2022.
To learn more about this book, or other titles from Akashic Books, visit their website at http://www.akashicbooks.com/
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© 2022 Bruce E Von Stiers