Bonnie Billy : More Revery

Will Oldham takes a break from songwriting

In simpler times, you could define a person by the songs they held dear – likewise musicians and the songs they chose to cover. So, despite all his wonderful homegrown outpourings, Will Oldham now feels the need to confirm his personality via six songs by other notable mortals. Naturally, the Bonnie lad renders them far flakier than they were intended by dint of his brittle, vacillating croon, but it at least serves to heighten sensitivity.

One shouldn’t, however, expect this to be a gloriously gloomy outbuilding attached to the last two great Bonnie ‘Prince’ albums. This is an altogether more conventional neo-folk rock affair, where the fuller arrangements fill in the gaps that made ‘Ease Down The Road’ such a joyous, lo-country experience. Bill Withers’ ‘Same Love That Made Me Laugh’ is blessed with an almost comical sheen by Oldham’s inability to reach the high notes, and his re-reading of PJ Harvey’s ‘Sweeter Than Anything’ confirms what we knew all along: that, next to confident female company, men really are the weaker sex. That old faux-defeatist magic of his shines through on the likes of ‘Just To See You Smile’ but, self-gratification aside, he really didn’t need to do this. The Will Oldham we know and love is perfectly documented elsewhere, through the magic of his own ideas.

Darren Johns