Unstrung: Rants and Stories of a Noise Guitarist By Marc Ribot, 216 pgs.

Nov 15, 2022

Session guitarist Marc Ribot is known for his work with Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, John Zorn, and many other musicians, including those in the jazz and Latin scenes. Despite his long career, there’s something that causes me to pause when I read a subtitle that includes “Rants and Stories” because I wonder, “Is this going to be coherent? Is it going to be held together by anything?”

And the answer is, not really. Ribot writes about Haitian guitarist Frantz Casseus in one section and later writes a piece of the noise roosters make. In another essay he’s writing about being on tour and then there’s a whole section of multiple fictional (I assume?) stories that begin with “Once upon a time…” or “Once there was a…”.  There’s an entire part of the book that is just film and script ideas that are off the wall. It’s safe to say there’s a wide range of material in these pages.

Thankfully, Ribot is a talented writer. He does fine with descriptive phrases and capturing the mood and scene. It’s clear he’s able to handle many different styles of writing. Yet I didn’t find any of the pieces reached out and grabbed me. While the content is, thankfully, broken into parts that relate to one another, the diversity of the overall pieces in Unstrung made it hard to follow. With it being so short I can’t imagine this text being broken into separate books, yet combined they don’t entirely gel. Major respect to Ribot for his guitar playing and writing skills, but this doesn’t flow as well as his music. –Kurt Morris (Akashic, 232 Third St., Suite A115, Brooklyn, NY 11215)