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Bonnie Prince Billy's Beware - Is That Scary?

Posted by Miss Ess, April 24, 2009 04:50pm | Post a Comment
Bonnie Prince Billy's prolific, unrelenting output sort of forces me to prolifically blog about him -- he's one of the few present day artists whose work I always seek out, and consistantly his albums are nothing short of incredible...so here we are again.

bonnie prince billy beware

This time, however, I had my doubts at first; now that I have had a few weeks to settle in with Bonnie Prince Billy, aka Will Oldham's latest, Beware, plus seen him perform material from it live, I am starting to get more and more into it. At first all the production work and the over the top backing vocals were getting in the way ofbonnie prince billy my enjoyment of the record, but now the goodness of the songs has seeped into my brain and I've noticed I have tracks from Beware stuck in my head constantly, which is usually the most inescapable way of knowing when something is getting to me.

I think it's weird that the media is labeling this album "mature," and calling it his move toward a more "popular" sound...it's just plain wrong, really, because if anyone in the biz has just been doing exactly what he goddamn pleases, thank you very much, in his music for going on two decades, it's been Will Oldham. The media onslaught he's brought upon us for this record is, I believe, him trying to help sell records for Drag City's sake; it's not a ploy to catch the attention of the mainstream. Thabonnie prince billyt is something Oldham has never courted with any real commitment, or, in my opinion, any actual interest whatsoever. Oldham seems truly happy following his own muse, and I, for one, am continually ecstatic to listen to the result-- over the top backing vocals or not!

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Hear Bonnie Prince Billy and Bros Cover Trad Folk Songs

Posted by Miss Ess, December 19, 2008 03:43pm | Post a Comment
The most exciting thing that's happened to me today so far is the discovery of Bonnie Prince Billy and Captain Anomoanan's 2006 NYC Joe's Pub shows in MP3 form on the Aquarium Drunkard site.

will, ned and paul oldham
Photo by Natasha Tylea

The shows consist of three Oldham brothers: Will (Bonnie Prince Billy) along with Ned and Paul. Ned and Paul were in Palace and Palace Brothers with Will and one or more of them often accowill oldhammpany Will on tour, playing in his band. These two nights at Joe's Pub are fabled in part because they are simply the three brothers together, singing onstage by themselves with acoustic guitars, and also because their sets consist almost completely of traditional folk songs, songs that cannot be heard as done by the Oldhams anywhere else to my knowledge. The backstory here is that the Oldhams' father had very recently died and they dedicated the shows to him and his memory. I'd imagine the set consists of songs they heard at home in their youth. Listening carefully, the songs themselves are touching and well-chosen, and knowing that the Kentucky-born Oldhams are singing to their father makes them all the more so.

The song selections reflect both death and rebirth, sadness and hope, from "We Will Understand It Better By and By" to "Next Tibonnie prince billy is it the seame the Sun Comes Around" and "We Shall All Be Reunited" to "Goodbye Dear Old Stepstone." The singing is all ramshackle harmonies, very Oldham-esque and yet traditional. I really recommend checking these songs out. You can hear them here. Note that one set from the four shows over two days is missing.

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Tracker's dusty and modern road songs on the cheap

Posted by J. Mark Beaver, July 9, 2008 02:14pm | Post a Comment
First find on the dock: This has been waiting in the wings for some time, in fact, it’s a little bit of a redo, as it’s a title I championed a few years ago in the Music We Like book. I‘ll take this opportunity to expand my earlier opinion.

Tracker - Ames  (Film Guerrero)
Tracker Ames
Tracker is, basically, a guy from Portland, OR named John Askew (not to be confused with the DJ of the same name) and whoever he collects around him when he’s ready to record and tour. This was the first album from 1999 and is almost completely played by Askew with some help from friends Adam Selzer (Norfolk & Western) and Erik Herzog (Buellton). I bought it solely on the strength of the album art and the weakness of the price tag. Thus, I was doubly rewarded.

In a number of ways there are similarities to the dynamics of Jason Molina’s Songs:Ohia/Magnolia Electric Company projects. Both are the aggregates of a single man’s songwriting and organizational vision. Both have an undeniably roots Americana base, but with a lot of layering, whether it’s voices, samples of classical music or electronic textures hazing around simple plucked banjo lines. Like Molina, Askew writes extremely strong melodies, and couples them with thoughtful and often mystifying lyrics.

The charm of Ames is due largely to its lack of self-seriousness. Askew lets a breath of ease into his writing and production. “Evan’s Getting It Together” is driven with some lazy and seemingly living-room recorded handclaps that work perfectly to prove that, as beautiful and lush as the songs here sometimes get, they are being played by some guys who are just trying to make some cool songs that get into your head. In fact, some of the song transitions (and there is a lot of ambient connective tissue) remind me of the great also-overlooked Purple Blue by Eric’s Trip, another group of dudes (and a dudette) who were just trying to make some cool songs.

Lie Down In the Light: Will Oldham in Repose

Posted by Miss Ess, May 27, 2008 12:27pm | Post a Comment
The new Bonnie Prince Billy album is quite pleasing.  It's called Lie Down In the Light and it has thebonnie prince billy lie down in the light will oldham drag city quality elements we expect from a BPB record-- the loose harmonies, addicting melodies and bawdy lyrics, and yet it also has new elements that make it unlike past BPB albums. 

Admirably, BPB (aka Will Oldham) is always experimenting and each of his releases has distinguishing characteristics.  This record has more piano than I remember in any albums past.  It also has more noticeable Southern influences than he's included in a while-- the song "I'll Be Glad" is a straight up gospel-y number, but kinda country-ish too, seeing as it is about the strength of God, and there's backup singers and pedal steel guitar all over it.  Then there's also the random but welcome addition of a jazzy clarinet on "For Every Field There's A Mole,"  and it all sounds seamless!

Lyrically the record is sort of simplistic, which caught me off guard at first, but upon repeated listening, I get it.  Oldham recently lost his father, and in my opinion this is reflected in the lyrical simplicity, which often pertains to showing your friends and family love ("Keep your loved ones near/cause others need you right here by/just as you need me" from "Other's Gain."), and enjoying the easy pleasures of life in the now, such as dancing around the kitchen all night in the track "Easy Does It." 

will oldham bonnie prince billy

One of the very best aspects of this latest album is the vocals by Ashley Webber, who adds a depth and emotionality to her duets with Will that was never matched by his most recent previous duet partner, Dawn McCarthy of Faun Fables.  Webber is apparently the twin sister of Black Mountain's Amber Webber, who happens to be one of my favorite vocalists out there right now.  I still am not sure if I marin headlandsactually believe Amber has a twin...I wouldn't be surprised if it was Amber herself on these tracks!  But who knows.  Either way, the voice is fantastic and brings the songs to greater heights than they would reach without her.  The tracks she is featured on are the best on the record.

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Superwolf Rises Once Again!

Posted by Miss Ess, May 21, 2008 07:15pm | Post a Comment
I am beyond excited to resuperwolf bonnie prince billy matt sweeney will oldhamport that in this interview with Billboard, guitarist and of-late Neil Diamond session player Matt Sweeney confirms that there will be another Superwolf record! 

Superwolf is Matt's project with Will Oldham, a.k.a. Bonnie Prince Billy, and their first record is one of my favorites in the entire epic Oldham cannon (that's saying something!).superwolf bonnie prince billy matt sweeney will oldham

That self-titled record is such a dramatic and emotional piece of art--  I can't wait to see what they come up with next.  Sweeney's twisty, turn-y, melodic electric guitar is the perfect counterpoint to Oldham's rough and ready vocals.  Working with Sweeney on that record seemed to revitalize Oldham after a few years' worth of softer, more acoustic records.  (And thank goodness!)

Check out this clip of Superwolf's "Beast For Thee" performed live.  I love when Will busts out the overalls on tour (the whole entire band wears the exact same bulky khaki overalls...), then sings sad, delicate songs and contorts all around:


Anyone else wanna swoon with me, remembering when Oldham and Sweeney stopped by Amoeba SF and played the Superwolf album straight through a couple of years back?  Ah, that was a great day!

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