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Reviews

Bonnie Prince Billy
Beware Emma Johnston , March 30th, 2009 08:00

Will Oldham is one of those precious, wildly prolific musicians who has done things completely on his own terms. He's practically allergic to the media, preferring to let his glorious take on alt-country speak for itself. And on his latest album under the Bonnie Prince Billy moniker, it speaks louder and more eruditely than ever before.

Musically, he reflects an America that doesn't really exist any more – a swelling Appalachian orchestra of emotive lap steel, folk fiddle, warmly inviting choirs and dusty percussion that flash up visions of smalltown life before even the smallest mom and pop settlements were disfigured by McDonalds and Taco Bell. It's the perfect bed for Oldham's beautiful, trustworthy voice, which becomes more like a musical comfort blanket with every new album.

At first glance, it would seem that we're on board for a trip into utter misery, titles like 'You Can't Hurt Me Now', 'Death Final' and 'You Are Lost' giving the impression that Beware is all set for a good old scab-picking session. Certainly in the past, with albums like the sorrowful I See A Darkness, Oldham's guitar has wept has he sighed his way through life. But there's a hopefulness to this that's new, and a cheeky gleam at play that sees Oldham discovering the silver lining in his tribulations.

"You tell me that you like my eyes and the way I giggle", he lists on You Don't Love Me "Sometimes you like the smell of me and how my stomach jiggles", before coming to the conclusion that he's fine with the fact that his beloved is not quite so enamoured with him because at least he's got someone to share a bed with. Highly polished after his more raggedy days with Palace, and packed with melodies so infectious they almost border on pop (in the most leftfield sense of the world), Beware is all about light and shade, finding good things in bad situations and vice versa, and highlights Oldham at his very warmest and most content.

Bonnie Prince Billy thoroughly deserves the acclaim routinely heaped on him. As far from the cowpoke and Stetson cliché of country music as its possible to get without abandoning the genre, his intelligent, huge-hearted outpourings showcase Americana at its very best.

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