Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy : London Shepherds Bush Empire

The undisputed king of feral folk plays to his biggest UK audience ever...

He talks in between songs. He takes requests. He plays that great incest lullaby, ‘Riding’. It’s fair to say, this is a Will Oldham show like no other.

There’s the band – most of High Llamas, cranking country rock out of Oldham’s bone-bare songs (‘May It Always Be’ is particularly rollicking). At the back, The Dirty Three’s Jim White whacks a primitive drumkit, and Oldham himself – kicking his cowboy

boots and grimacing – plays

a child-sized guitar. He looks like

a Civil War veteran gone to seed, but when he encores, the hush is such that you could hear the

drip of an illicit whiskey still back in Kentucky.

His chit-chat is invariably drowned out by the cheers, but whatever wisdom we missed couldn’t have added more value to a sublime musical holiday in the finest backwoods misery. ‘I See A Darkness’ is devastating tonight; soft with menace and raw with supplication, while the deceptively sweet ‘Ohio Riverboat Song’

gets a rare dose of spotlight.

New melancholies seamlessly join with ancient laments, as the undisputed king of feral folk twists the knife ever further into his biggest UK audience thus far.

Long may he wound.

Kitty Empire