Graham Reid | | 1 min read
The previous album by Bonnie Prince Billy -- aka Will Oldham -- was the uneven but enjoyable Lie Down in the Light which found our former melancholy fellah in a somewhat more upbeat mood. It was bound to divide longtime listeners, most of whom probably preferred his "I see a darkness" side, or his wonderful The Letting Go which made the Best of Elsewhere 2006 list.
A consumer warning for miserablists then: this outing finds him almost alarmingly melodic (I hear as much slow Fifties pop balladry here as traditional country) and although there are lyrics which explore loneliness and the solitary life even these come bathed gently in trilling mandolin, romantic strings and weeping pedal steel, with soulful (almost gospel) backing, and are all delivered in a voice which is soft, empathetic and sensitive.
Despite the title and the somewhat foreboding cover art (lettering which refers to Neil Young also), this is a step further down the Lie Down in Light path, but more assured and less self-conscious than that outing.
Oldham has recently been talking about communicating more directly with his audience and reaching out, perhaps aware that no artist can remain static, or endure a musical life quite as introverted as his had been (that's assumes he has always been autobiographical and slightly morose, which is doubtful).
Beware has drifted through the smoke of pop and Nashville, a little Memphis soul and even has a whiff of Keith Richards/Gram Parsons country weeper about it.
Warm, melodic, inviting and yet still possessed of that appealing penumbra which has been Oldham's hallmark. Much recommended.