Will Oldham (Bonnie “Prince” Billy)

Will Oldham has collaborated with a large group of other musicians, such as Johnny Cash, PJ Harvey, David Pajo, and David Berman (Silver Jews). Ironically, Oldham and Berman have more things in common besides their folky musical style. Both are very talented and artistic in more ways than one. Berman is also a reputable cartoonist and poet, while Oldham was originally a rising actor and photographer, as he photographed the cover to Slint’s album Spiderland, which also happened to be his first of many musically related credits. Oldham went under a handful of aliases since his musical debut in 1992, whether it be Palace, Palace Songs, or just his plain old name. He seems to enjoy the alias Bonnie “Prince” Billy though, as he has stuck with it for several years now. Oldham seems to consistantly release at least one album every year, and this year will not be an exception when The Letting Go releases next month.

Oldham’s sound throughout the years has remained generally untouched, though higher production and several more instruments have been added to the mix of things. While Oldham’s musical career started out with nothing much more than a simple acoustic guitar, he has evolved into a multi-instrumentalist over the years. ‘Cursed Sleep’ was one of my instant favorites off of the new album. Oldham has foolishly been labeled as country in the past by people without much comprehension, but the only thing that makes the label somewhat understandable is Oldham’s natural Kentucky-bred vocals. ‘Cursed Sleep’ is accompanied by an initial light electric guitar, as strings eventually glide in gracefully over Oldham’s always thoughtful lyrics. My favorite part of ‘Strange Form Of Life’ has to be the backing female vocals. The mix between this and Oldham’s vocals are very refreshing, as they seem to echo one another, while lyrics reflect the hope of a man and of waiting for his love to find him in one big metaphor of “a dark room”. ‘Then The Letting Go’ reminds me slightly of his earlier career, with no percussion, even while the backing vocals act on their own to provide a sweet melody, though some backing vocal points sound a bit odd. The lyrics are extremely vivid, as Oldham reflects on the surprises of childhood. The album’s main theme lyrically seems to be of “letting go” of people and memories that will cause no good in the present. I’m finding The Letting Go to be an extreme grower, and I expect fans of Oldham to be ultimately pleased with the result.


Bonnie “Prince” Billy – Cursed Sleep



Bonnie “Prince” Billy – Strange Form Of Life



Bonnie “Prince” Billy – Then The Letting Go



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Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine.

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1 Comment

  1. I haven’t heard the whole album, so I can’t comment on whether it’s a grower or not, but I pretty much dug these tracks immediately.

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