BONNIE “PRINCE” BILLY – Beware (2009)

Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Beware Will Oldham has been steadily releasing music under various monikers since 1993; like John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats, Oldham defies the notion that quantity cannot always equal quality. No, Oldham has his cake, and eats it, too. Every time. And Beware, Oldham’s seventh release as Bonnie “Prince” Billy (before adopting this name, he was formerly known as Palace Music/Brothers/Songs), is yet another reminder that he’s in a class all his own.

While Oldham’s music has always been rooted in folk/country, his interpretations of these genres have always been rather diverse. As Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Oldham has previously the bleaker side of these genres with 1999’s I See A Darkness (an album that’s so fragile, vulnerable and raw that we’re not likely to hear anything remotely like it in the future). And he’s also managed to collaborate successfully with a variety of artists (including Tortoise, Matt Sweeney and Dawn McCarthy of Faun Fables, with whom Oldham shared vocal duties with on 2006’s The Letting Go). But lately, Oldham has been taking a more traditional approach to his music, and the results have been just as wonderful. Last May, he released Lie Down In The Light, and now, less than a year later, we have Beware.

Despite its rather ominous title (and cover art), Beware does not follow the same forlorn path as I See A Darkness (a wise decision; once an artist has successfully gone down that road, it’d be foolish to attempt to retread it). Instead, Oldham strives to create an eerie disconnect between music that is often celebratory and dark, troubled lyrics (as exhibited best in the songs Beware Your Only Friend and I Am Goodbye). The result is that Beware is an album that functions on two levels that are completely independent of one another. In the hands of a lesser artist, such a decision could easily result in a musical trainwreck, but Oldham (as expected), pulls it off effortlessly.

As far as recent releases go, Beware puts album’s like M. Ward’s Hold Time and Heartless Bastards’ The Mountain to shame. Depending upon your affinity for Americana music, that should be more than enough to see if Beware is worth a purchase or not.


One Response to “BONNIE “PRINCE” BILLY – Beware (2009)”

  1. […] to something in this vein this year, I’d recommend Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s Beware over this in a […]

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