Bonnie Prince Billy: Is it the Sea? (BBC)

 |   |  1 min read

Bonnie Prince Billy: Wolf Among Wolves
Bonnie Prince Billy: Is it the Sea? (BBC)

Recorded live in Edinburgh before the release of his last album Lie Down in the Light (which as noted here was a slightly more upbeat if not uptempo outing for this prince of dark places) this is an exceptional release in the ever-expanding Billy (aka Will Oldham) canon.

With a small band of folk-locals Harem Scarem and guest voclaist Alex Neilson, Oldham reaches right back to some material from his earliest incarnation under the Palace moniker to the almost breezy Love Comes To Me from his 2006 album The Letting Go.

What impresses here is not simply the breadth of his songwriting - from old weird America to hints of Celtic folk, from murder ballads to suggestions of gospel - but the persuasiveness of his delivery while accompanied by fiddle, often hymnal sounding backing vocals and the most skeletal of acoustic guitar.

There is an almost ancient voice being conjured up which is timeless and intimate, and the large audience is hushed throughout.

Like Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and (lesserly so) Neil Young, Oldham refashions older material to re-create them for himself and his audience, so this is not simply a "greatest hits" (ho ho ho, Oldham having a hit?) rendered live but songs being reoccupied and reconsidered.

Standouts are numerous but Wolf Among Wolves is utterly hypnotic as his voice cracks and creaks over wheezing accordion as he addresses pains of love and his weaknesses.

If Oldham/Billy/Palace etc is somehow only just coming on your radar then this would be a fine, if typically dark and demanding, place to start - although Lie Down in the Light might offer a few more rays of sunshine.

If Billy is already your man then this is one to confidently add to that burgeoning catalogue.

This is really quite something. 

 

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

Dean Wareham: Dean Wareham (Double Feature/Southbound)

Dean Wareham: Dean Wareham (Double Feature/Southbound)

When one-time Kiwi/longtime New Yorker Dean Wareham's former band Luna got to open for Velvet Underground at their brief reunion in '93 it must have semed like a dream come true: Luna owed a... > Read more

Marianne Dissard: L'abandon (Dissard/Rhythmethod)

Marianne Dissard: L'abandon (Dissard/Rhythmethod)

Although her impressive debut album L'entredeux took her to small audience (she sings in French) this Tucson-based singer and film-maker is rather more edgy on this outing which might win... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Nik Bartsch's Ronin: Live (ECM/Ode)

Nik Bartsch's Ronin: Live (ECM/Ode)

A previous album by this often melodically minimalist, rhythmically propulsive and effervescent group around keyboard player Bartsch -- Llyria -- was singled out as one the Best of Elsewhere in... > Read more

Taraf de Haidouks and Kocani Orkestar: Band of Gypsies 2 (Crammed Discs)

Taraf de Haidouks and Kocani Orkestar: Band of Gypsies 2 (Crammed Discs)

The rather mouthful of an album title tells you that this is forced marriage of two Romany groups teaming up to celebrate the Taraf's 20th anniversary. This album comes a decade on from... > Read more