No need to search long and hard here for a telling stylistic connection. When guitarist Corey Christiansen punctuates Factory Girl with a thoroughly modern and haunting arrangement of the folk song “Shenandoah,” fans of Bill Frisell’s intriguing brand of Americana will likely find themselves reaching for the “repeat” button. Frisell has long favored “Shenandoah” in concert, and Christiansen’s affection for the tune is no less evident on this quintet session, as the arrangement, distinguished by his shimmering tone and languid phrasing, slowly unfolds. It’s just one of several performances, though, in which the guitarist seems equally inspired by the company he’s keeping: Zach Lapidus, on keyboards and the audio-synthesis platform SuperCollider; Jeremy Allen, on acoustic and electric bass; Matt Jorgensen, on drums; and Michael Spiro, on percussion.
Not one to show a lot of flash for flash’s sake, Christiansen can conjure up a trove of motifs and grooves without shifting from a root-position minor-pentatonic grip. For this recording, he deploys electric, acoustic and resonator guitars, plus effects, to create a striking variety of moods, some spacious and pastoral, others sharply marked by funk beats and blues riffs. (At one point, “Old Joe Clark” arrives with a brand-new bag.) When Christiansen and Lapidus aren’t briefly alluding to their organ-combo roots, they often refresh the vintage tunes, including the album’s title track, with inspired harmonic weaves and countermelodies. Supported by a responsive rhythm section, alternately supple and clangorous, they also imbue three Christiansen tunes with soulful lyricism to spare.