Album Review : Bonnie Prince Billy
Facts about this album:
* Before Will Oldham began recording as Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, he went by the names Palace Brothers, Palace Songs, and Palace Music.
* ‘Beware’ is Oldham’s seventh album under the Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy name.
* Oldham began his career as a film actor at 17. However, he became disillusioned with Hollywood and quit acting in 1989.
Oh goody goody, a new Will Oldham album. A chance for the world of music journalism, dominated by 30-something bearded sociology graduates, to wet their collective knickers in seven-page outpourings on tonality and chord changes. Well, bollocks to that. What you really want to know is why you should fork out your hard-earned money for what must be the 100th album he’s put out this decade, other than to impress boys who go to Climate Camp. It’s simple, really: from opener ‘Beware Your Only Friend’, with its softly-softly tickling blues strum and echoing choral loveliness, it’s the best thing we’ve heard since, well, he put his last album out. Everything about it reeks of Cash, Dylan and, to a lesser extent, Springsteen, but Oldham is slowly but surely creeping up to hold his own with all of them. From the crooning trumpets of ‘You Can’t Hurt Me Now’ to the inexplicable panpipes of ‘Afraid Ain’t Me’ it’s an Americana classic, and perhaps the first one ever not to make us retch uncontrollably. Hear that, Sufjan?For an album that is characteristically almost entirely devoid of cheerful sentiment, it’s a surprisingly spirit-lifting 45 minutes. ‘You Don’t Love Me’ is the highlight, harbouring more humour and warmth than the title would suggest and more hand-claps than those more familiar with Billy’s old maudlin, stripped-down sound could ever possibly imagine. On one hand, there’s an echo of the Detroit scene sound in the Blanche-like duelling fiddle and bass, and on the other it’s so out-and-out Herman Dune-esque country it makes us want to take up horse-riding.So let’s reclaim Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy from The Guardian readers’ top 100 albums of the year polls. This is pure non-homogenised, heart-on-sleeve, downright meaningful music, the sort of thing The Wombats cry themselves to sleep over on a nightly basis. For that alone it’s worth a tenner of anybody’s money.