Graham Reid | | <1 min read
Will Oldham has appeared under so many noms-de-disque it can hardly be his audience's fault if it hasn't been able to keep up: he's been Palace, Palace Brothers, Palace Music, Bonny "Prince" Billy, Bonnie Billy, been a member of various bands, and sometimes even appeared under his own name.
It would take a work of great insight and length to make clear distinctions between all these various personae, but at core Oldham/Billy works in the alt.country area although he doesn't quite fit there that easily: he links to an older American folk/country tradition with discreet references to English hymns and forgotten folk. He's also unique as a singer-songwriter in that he has an ear for a pop progression in his chord sequences.
This album, recorded in Iceland with a local string quartet on some tracks, is among his most (musically) approachable albums and in places there is even a jaunty characteristic (Cold & Wet). But he is, as always, lyrically dense and shadow-filled. Death is ever-present. You might have expected that the stark environment of Iceland would have brought an even more melancholic Oldham to the surface but it is almost the opposite: with warm harmonies from Dawn McCarthy and some almost lush if angular arrangements this has heart and soul in generous abundance, and it is a collection of memorable songs.
This may well be Oldham/Billy's best yet, and that's saying something because the man sets a very high standard for himself. Much recommended.