on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2014 9 Mrz

A fabulous vinyl experience with pigs and skunks and scratches

von: Michael Engelbrecht Filed under: Blog | TB | Tags:  | 1 Comment

Think for a moment about your Will Oldham aka Bonnie „Prince“ Billy aka Palace Music albums, and, no matter, if you don’t own any, only one, a few, or nearly everything: no doubt about it, the singer/songwriter from the Kentucky hinterlands has meanwhile released quite a big body of music. He is not a friend of happy tunes, and wrote at least some dozens of heartbreaking songs. The late Johnny Cash offered us a brilliant version of Oldham’s „I Can See a Darkness“.

If Will Oldham turns the light on in some of his songs, don’t expect too much brightness: I have a pale memory about one of his songs where a small lamp spreading tiny white light was installed into a grave, in companionship with a novel by R.L. Stephenson. Or was it a tune by Bill Callahan? Or another songsmith from the dark side of „Americana“? Now, on his new self-released album, simply called „Bonnie „Prince“ Billy“, we hear some interesting things about close relatives, old loves and long-gone friends. Whoever the „singing I“ might present, on one of the tracks we learn that his dad was a bear, his mum was a skunk, and that a „filthy spotted pig“ was hidden at the food of his bed.

So far, so sad. Another real delight in this great song cycle (that doesn’t offer too much hope but delivers great stories with voice and acoustic guitar only) is a special „vinyl experience“: on this long playing record you experience a new form of silence between the tracks. At first you think, oh, what a short record, but then, out of nowhere, the singer starts another song. By the way, the album is beautifully recorded without any reverb, just the naked acoustics – and the silences, long, beautiful silences between the songs of despair and desaster. Silences full of viny scratches and vinyl noises! I didn’t look on a clock, but the silences seem to last between 15 and 45 seconds, roundabout. And so it takes a long time till you realize that one side of black vinyl has reached its final round – you still expect another song. Highly recommended (I always wanted to write this sentence at the end of a review!)!

P.S. I have to ask the Will Oldham community one more question (the informations on the record are sparse, thankfully the lyrics are all printed): where has he recorded this? In a barn? In a living-room with piles of American folk songs? In a prison cell? Or a dead-house? Just wanna know.

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1 Comment

  1. Michael Engelbrecht:

    That uncertainty, and Oldham’s sense of the self as constant flux, also give Bonnie „Prince’“Billy a Zen feel—and, by the end, a meditative calm. Closer “Royal Quiet Deluxe” describes driving down a highway to escape a failed relationship, but also to meet something greater. “If we die many times, then let death come to me,” he sings spiritedly—and then suddenly switches into a upbeat epilogue. “This is the last song of its kind,” he croons as if he’s peacefully accepted his demise, or moved on to something new. It’s one of the most sublime moments in a musical career already full of them—and it ends with the album’s sunniest line: “Ain’t it the best?” Once you’ve taken this fascinating journey with Oldham, it’s hard not to agree.

    (The end of the Pitchfork review of the album)

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