Bonnie ‘prince’ Billy is Will Oldham, Will Oldham is Bonnie ‘prince’ Billy.
Throughout his career, Oldham has produced a constant stream of honest, handcrafted songs firmly rooted in the American folk and country tradition. Oldhem is a modern example of what Greil Marcus dubbed “that old, weird America.”
The Letting Go is the fourth proper solo album released under the Bonnie ‘prince’ Billy moniker. (Oldham has also recorded under the names: Palace Brothers, Palace Music, Palace Songs, and Will Oldham.) Recorded at The Greenhouse in Reykjavik, Iceland, the record was produced and mixed by Valgeir Sigurðsson (Bjork, Kronos Quartet, Nico Muhly). The Letting Go finds Oldhem’s traditional Appalachian folk surrounded by an ethereal foreign landscape. The sound is warm and inviting as the album benefits from Sigurosson’s production style. Dreamlike textures surround Oldham’s haunted melodies and sparse acoustic guitar playing; at times recalling the production of early Nick Drake recordings.
The string arrangements, provided by the talented Nico Muhly, accompany the acoustic instruments with a lushness that slide from eerie to serene. Oldham’s rustic folk charm collides perfectly with these adventurous yet subdued arrangements. Adding to the dreamy texture is the voice of Dawn McCarthy, whose harmonies float around Oldham’s wavering southern croon. Their vocal relationship on the opening track, “Love Comes To Me” is heartbreakingly cool. The interweaving of McCarthy’s voice throughout the record is a perfect counterpart to the plaintive Oldham.
The final track, “I Called You Back,” is the golden ticket with a meditative rhythm, sparse instrumentation, and soulful vocal delivery destined to take you to dreamland. Highly recommended for fans of acoustic music, experimental folk, and troubadour songwriting. The original pressing sounds great and can still be found online for a reasonable price.
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, The Letting Go
Label: Drag City [DC-420]
Released: 19 September 2006