Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - "Beware" CD

It's strange to realize that a hotbed of indie-rock creativity, known the world over, can be found a mere 2 hours away, in Louisville, Kentucky. From punk/noise brats Squirrel Bait to indie icons Slint, from Rachel's to My Morning Jacket -- all have called L-ville 'home'. Without debate, the prolific and inimitable Will Oldham could be considered among the most important. Covered by Johnny Cash himself, and a collaborator with such renowned individuals as Bjork, Tortoise, Kanye West, and tons of others, Oldham's Bonnie 'Prince' Billy nom de plume has been his personal focus for some years. 'Beware' is his umpteenth album (who's counting?), and it may be one of his best and most developed.
Continuing with a similarly laid-back vibe as last year's decent but kinda forgettable 'Lie Down In The Light', this isn't a return to his influential early-90's lo-fi, mope-folk days. Oldham's voice doesn't waver like it used to. He's learned to sing within his limits, and his backing band brings a rootsy and distinctly classic country sound (banjo and pedal steel figure prominently, as do mandolin and violin) to the table - fitting considering this is an album full of what seems to be autobiographical laments. "I Don't Belong To Anyone' is an old-fashioned country heartbreaker -- lyrically seeming deceptively simple, but packing a sincere wallop upon closer listen. The first single, 'You Are Hello', is a lovely and ultra-catchy 2-minute bit of rollicking down-home good times, at least on the surface. Unless you analyze the lyrics closer. His use of language, metaphor, and juxtaposing the happy with the sad is the work of a true artist, and this is another great example of Oldham using this skill. There are plenty of smart and literate working-class tunes here, and I'd wager at least a couple will stick around for a long, long time. (Drag City)

Here's the official video for the brief but catchy 'You Are Hello' - one of my favorite songs from this new album...

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