Bill Orcutt: A New Way to Pay Old Debts

Ron Hart

Former Harry Pussy guitarist Bill Orcutt's caustic 2009 tribute to the blues gets a deluxe makeover from one of the great labels in modern experimental music.

Bill Orcutt

A New Way to Pay Old Debts

Label: Editions MEGO
US Release Date: 2011-01-18
UK Release Date: Import

Few acts on the landscape of modern creative music can claim to come close to the kind of free-form ferocity dished out by Miami’s Harry Pussy back in its mid-'90s heyday. More than 15 years since that band's untimely demise, the blues is attacked with the same menacing fervor as noise-rock was on the brilliant A New Way to Pay Old Debts, the 2009 solo masterstroke from former HP guitarist Bill Orcutt. Originally released on the tiny Palilalia label, it's now masterfully reissued by the folks at Editions MEGO. Armed with a vintage Kay acoustic guitar, downtuned to the depths of Hell with the A and D strings removed, and with a DeArmond pickup on maximum overload, Orcutt strips the age-old African-American sound to its rawest nerve. The elemental approach is evident in the way he eviscerates Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Sad News from Korea”. It's also apparent in a series of improvised, toxic tributes to Mississippi Fred McDowell and John Fahey coming through an old, static-drenched clock radio speaker that cuts in and out of a Derek Bailey marathon whilst somehow picking up the frequencies of old rotary telephone rings and cop car sirens between their 12-bar chord structures. By comparison, Orcutt makes Jon Spencer’s deconstruction of the blues sound like Robert Cray. This reissue of A New Way to Pay Old Debts tacks on the two-song “High Wasted” 7-inch and four previously unreleased tracks from the original recording sessions, making this scuzz-fuzz journey through the dirt and clay beneath the Mississippi Delta even more essential than it was upon its initial run through the experimental woodlands.





How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.


From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?


The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.


'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.


​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.


Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.


Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.


Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.


Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.


Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.


Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.