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Country - Released November 15, 2019 | Drag City

Will Oldham's progression from depraved and warbling loner folkie to polished country crooner saw his music maturing without ever losing its demented core. The songwriter's early life under any number of monikers stuck to rural tales of the ugliest aspects of human nature, delivered by a cracking voice and shaky, homespun performances. Over the course of decades of prolific output, Oldham's vocals grew more refined and the rough edges of his music smoothed out, beginning partway into his work under the name Bonnie "Prince" Billy. Oftentimes he'd revisit old material, reworking once creaky, spare folk tunes into honky tonk romps or beautifully orchestrated pieces. Oldham's penchant for revision led to a long stretch when his albums were focused on covers or reimaginings of his earlier work. I Made a Place is the first set of new original songs since 2011's subdued Wolfroy Goes to Town, and it continues both Oldham's artistic development and his one-of-a-kind strangeness. Opening with the boisterous "New Memory Box," the instrumentation of I Made a Place is immediately striking. Horn and woodwind player Jacob Duncan adds saxophone, clarinet, and flute arrangements throughout, giving the peppier songs added flare and the slower, more thoughtful tunes an air of sophistication. The album is split up more or less evenly into upbeat country and more delicate acoustic songs. A busy arrangement of dusty fiddle, Nashville-styled guitar licks, and string bass on "The Devil's Throat" is offset by hushed moments like the country ballad "Nothing Is Busted" and the slowly unfolding "I Have Made a Place." Oldham's enigmatic lyrical presence is in strong form, with the bubbly rocker "Squid Eye" meshing references to aquatic life with existential themes. The traditional country-folk storytelling of "Look Backwards on Your Future, Look Forward to Your Past" bends a tale of bloody death and surreal philosophy around straightforward back-roads chord changes. Vocalist Joan Shelley joins Oldham on the more spirited numbers, adding lift to the chorus of "You Know the One" with gentle harmonies. Like any entry of the Bonnie "Prince" Billy discography, I Made a Place takes several spins to wear down the veneer of would-be country trappings and Oldham's plainspoken but obtuse narratives. The gorgeous instrumentation makes it a farmland addendum to the icy string arrangements of 2006's pristine The Letting Go. While no less emotionally dense than that or any of Oldham's work, I Made a Place feels less intense, and even fun by comparison. The album offers a lighter and mellower reading of Bonnie "Prince" Billy as he walks further down a perpetually twisting path with each new set of songs. ~ Fred Thomas
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Country - Released November 15, 2019 | Drag City

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Folk/Americana - Released September 17, 2018 | Drag City Records

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Pop - Released May 7, 2018 | Drag City Records

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Pop - Released July 2, 2018 | Drag City Records

Will Oldham has usually preached the gospel of less-is-more, but after an own-covers record that emanated from the belly of Nashville itself (Bonnie Prince Billy Sings Greatest Palace Songs), followed by a collaboration with guitarist Matt Sweeney (Superwolf) and a churning live record (Summer in the Southeast), his work began to seem positively indulgent. The Letting Go is not quite as far a stretch, but it is yet another intriguing departure. Granted, its approach would strike most bands as skeletal, but compared to his last solo album of originals, 2003's Master and Everyone, it sounds downright gaudy. It was recorded in Iceland with a producer, Valgeir Sigurosson, who gets more out of Oldham's voice and songs than has ever been heard on record. Oldham's harmony companion, Dawn McCarthy from Faun Fables, takes a much larger role than her predecessor on Master and Everyone, and her credit for harmony arrangements tells you everything you need to know about how important she is to the success of this album. Oldham's songwriting is breathtaking, close to the best of his career, although little changed from the norm -- his surreal, fatalistic take on Americana Gothic. "Cursed Sleep" is especially wonderful, with a string arrangement that harks back to Nick Drake's "Way to Blue," haunted vocals from McCarthy the chanteuse far in the background, and a set of lyrics that build up to a tragic peak ("Cursed love is never ended, cursed eyes are never closing, cursed arms are never closing, cursed children never rising, cursed me never despising"). To the other extreme is "Cold & Wet," a downright jaunty (despite the lyrics), fingerpicked blues of the type that Mississippi John Hurt would have recorded for Vanguard in the mid-'60s, and percussion from Dirty Three drummer Jim White that could be confused with electric drums or the worst recorded organic drum set ever heard. Truth to tell, since the quality of Oldham's songwriting has rarely wavered, the excellent arrangements and McCarthy's contributions make The Letting Go the best of his career to this point. ~ John Bush
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Rock - Released June 25, 2018 | Drag City Records

Will Oldham is inexhaustible as well as unpredictable. This live set recorded during the summer of 2004 goes out of its way to trash his well-crafted American gothic persona. With a four-guitar front line that includes David Bird, Matt Sweeney, and Pink Nasty (who also contributes vocally throughout), Ryder McNair on piano and organ, drummer Peter Townsend (no relation), and brother Paul on bass, Oldham rocks up most of his Bonnie "Prince" Billy shelf and a tossed-in Palace number to shatter the reverence of his earlier live offerings. This one is loose, raw, and full of crackling energy and force. Check the live version of "I See a Darkness" or "Death to Everyone." But this also comes off as a dark, fierce record of broken love songs, as if Oldham is trying by means of this very electric rock & roll band to exorcise the demon of love gone bad -- very bad. And while it's true that these songs have been recorded before, they've never come off like this, like a man at the end of his rope yet refusing to give up the ghost. "A Sucker's Evening" snarls and swirls as Oldham twists and turns each word in his mouth as if it were bitter soiled fruit he needs to spit before it poisons him completely. Country, garage rock, American poetic bile, and sheer venomous energy fuel this terrific set that ranks among Oldham's finest moments on record. ~ Thom Jurek
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Rock - Released June 11, 2018 | Drag City Records

The fourth Bonnie 'Prince' Billy record in six years finds Will Oldham relaxing into a beautiful groove; similar to 2001's Ease Down the Road, Master and Everyone is quite melodic compared to his Palace or self-titled releases, with less of the dire apocalyptic imagery and more reflections from his literate, anti-romantic backwoodsman. Like most of Oldham's recordings, this one rewards close attention, which reveals recording ambience ranging from creaking wood to a soft patting on the floor (a foot keeping time), and, of course, Oldham's half-resigned, half-plaintive croon. Little gets in the way of these songs. Circular lines from an acoustic guitar demarcate the choruses, a cello adds a bit of emotional warmth to one song, and a few others have the wheezing keys of what sounds like a pump organ. Fortunately, the songs stand up to the examination. "The Way" ("Love me the way I love you") is very nearly sweet, stranded between desperation and hope. Elsewhere Oldham is a true fatalist, resigning himself to the inevitable power of love to ruin his life and using the creepiest of old-timey metaphors to get his point across. On the title song, he explains the situation ("You tell me there are other fish in the sea, and another gathers roses for me/On this we will agree"), then uses the chorus to illustrate his worst fear: "I'm now free, master and everyone/Servant of all and servant to none." "Wolf Among Wolves" is especially eerie, with the merest whisper of feedbacked guitar and a wordless vocal punctuating the puzzled lyrics, "Why can't I be loved as what I am?/A wolf among wolves, and not as a man among men." One of the few guests on Master and Everyone is Marty Slayton, who contributes duet vocals to a pair of songs, a surprisingly close crossover to the folk crowd sparked by the success of O Brother, Where Art Thou? Mostly, though, Oldham concentrates on crafting unremittingly introspective and confessional material in a spare, old-timey format. As sometimes happens on the recordings of his kindred spirit Cat Power, however, such unstinting uniformity can be a curse as well as a blessing. ~ John Bush
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Pop - Released May 28, 2018 | Drag City Records

Will Oldham has long confused record buyers with his constantly changing monikers. Though the persona attached has remained fairly consistent, his releases under Bonnie "Prince" Billy brought a subtle but undeniable shift. Following the cracked, wayward style he adopted on 1997s Joya, Oldham settled on the steady understated "Bonnie" voice of I See a Darkness. The lyrics became more direct and the narrator's strange mythology deepened. If that album embraced its subject as a necessary, even beautiful aspect of life, Ease Down the Road finds the singer comfortable with this new-found acceptance. Backing Oldham is a cast of new and old faces who deliver their parts with an unusually soft, smooth touch. The singer eases into this setting, singing of his estranged upbringing, plans to construct his own kingdom (through questionable means), and love. The latter is Oldham's biggest preoccupation, finding its way into nearly every song, like the album's subplot. Though unable to choose between the love of one woman and the ability to be with whomever will suit his needs, the narrator is largely unconcerned with the conflict. Ease Down the Road features some of his most direct dealings with the subject on "May It Always Be" and "After I Made Love to You." As the album develops, this material is balanced with the more characteristic musings of "The Lion Lair," "Sheep," and "Grand Dark Feeling of Emptiness": songs that trace the same fictional histories found on I See a Darkness. The end result is the natural and necessary expansion of a unique songwriting voice. Seeming more confident than ever, Oldham's Ease Down the Road is a wonderful addition to a catalog that should earn him a place among the finest songwriters of his age, or any age. ~ Nathan Bush
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Rock - Released July 23, 2018 | Sea Note

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Pop - Released July 16, 2018 | Drag City Records

So who's been giving Will Oldham singing lessons? The artist currently known as Bonnie "Prince" Billy has displayed a rather inconsistent skill set when it comes to vocals in the 15 years since the Palace Brothers' debut album, but on 2008's Lie Down in the Light, Oldham sounds more tuneful than ever before; on the opener, "Easy Does It," he could pass as the leader of some better than average country-rock outfit from the early '70s, which matches the jaunty but laid-back vibe of the tune. Some of the songs here recall the more spare and troubling style that marked Oldham's earlier work, such as "So Everyone," "Willow Trees Bend," and "What's Missing Is," but he's still showing a greater control over his vocal instrument than before, sounding like a real singer in a way he often hasn't in the past, and while the production and arrangements on this album are lean and uncluttered, they're rooted in a warmth and lyricism that make this one of the most satisfying albums Oldham has offered as Bonnie "Prince" Billy. Oldham's obsession with Southern gothic archetypes hasn't changed much on this set, but the 11 new songs here feel fresh and unforced, with a grace in the wordplay that matches the natural flow of the music, and whether the mood reflects hope ("For Every Field There's a Mole"), longing ("Lie Down in the Light"), or contemplation of the mysteries ("You Want That Picture"), these songs hit their target true and clean. Lie Down in the Light doesn't sound like an immediate masterpiece in the manner of 2006's The Letting Go, but on the whole it's as strong and satisfying as anything Oldham has released in the last ten years, and it's encouraging that he keeps getting stronger and refining his gifts with the passage of time. And who knows what will happen if he keeps seeing that vocal coach. ~ Mark Deming
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Alternative & Indie - Released June 18, 2018 | Drag City Records

As Will Oldham's public identity has evolved from one of the mythic Palace Brothers to self-styled backwoods philosopher Bonnie "Prince" Billy, his musical approach has subtly evolved, with the shambolic and bare-wired attack of There Is No-One What Will Take Care of You giving way to the more subtle and artful ambience of Ease Down the Road and Master and Everyone. But Bonnie "Prince" Billy Sings Greatest Palace Music represents a stylistic shift no one was likely to have expected -- for this album, Oldham and several pals settled in at an upscale Nashville recording studio with a handful of first-call Music City session musicians (including the legendary Hargus "Pig" Robbins, Stuart Duncan, and Eddie Bayers) to re-record 15 tunes from the Palace songbook. The results vary wildly from track to track -- some cuts sound like polished but uncompromised re-imaginings of the Palace catalog (most notably "New Partner" and "Riding"), a few seem feel like perverse and sugary parodies of both Nash Vegas production and Oldham's myriad obsessions ("I Am a Cinematographer" and "I Send My Love to You"), and most appear to exist in some strange middle ground between these two poles. Oldham is in what's become typical voice for him -- he's no longer straining to sound like a Appalachian hermit, and if he doesn't have a whole lot of range, at least he's learned to skirt around the notes he can't hit. And regardless what you might think of the musicians, you can't deny they're playing what got them the gig, and they do so with a very professional élan (and Stuart Duncan's fiddle work is often quite beautiful). But as Will Oldham and his multitude of alter egos become increasingly cryptic in approaches and intent, Bonnie "Prince" Billy Sings Greatest Palace Music seems like yet another aural ink-blot test from a guy who has apparently devoted his recent career to confounding his audience for reasons that are hard to fathom. This album is too deeply felt too often to truly be a prank, and it's too willfully odd and disingenuous to be a sincere attempt at a straight country & western session, but Bonnie "Prince" Billy Sings Greatest Palace Music doesn't offer nearly enough clues as to what else it might be, and an unfortunate amount of this album simply doesn't merit the analysis that Oldham seemingly demands of listeners. ~ Mark Deming
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Folk/Americana - Released September 17, 2018 | Drag City Records

Will Oldham is one of the better-regarded songwriters of his generation, but in recent years he's taken up a sideline as an interpretive vocalist. As Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Oldham recorded an album of songs associated with the Everly Brothers, What the Brothers Sang, with Dawn McCarthy in 2013, and on 2017's Best Troubador, he covered 15 numbers from the Merle Haggard songbook. For 2018's Wolf of the Cosmos, Oldham has chosen not to cover a handful of songs, but an entire album: here, he interprets all 12 songs from Susanna's 2007 release Sonata Mix Dwarf Cosmos, in their original sequence. It's anyone's guess what prompted Oldham to offer his own take on someone else's album in toto, but Wolf of the Cosmos manages to pay homage to Susanna Wallumrød's vision while making room for Oldham's very distinct musical outlook. The original performances on Sonata Mix Dwarf Cosmos were deliberately spare, often suggesting the presence of only one or two instruments accompanying Susanna's vocals, and while there's more varied instrumentation here, the arrangements are whisper quiet, with the clink of Chris Rodahaffer's banjo and the sigh of Cheyenne Mize's violin sounding almost spectral next to the thoughtful murmur of Oldham's vocals. Oldham may not have written these tunes, but they fit him beautifully. Wallumrød's wordplay feels perfectly natural filtered through Oldham's instrument, and his vocals find him at the top of his game, delivering performances that are at once introspective and deeply felt, finding a wealth of emotion in the simplicity of his approach. Oldham's willfully cryptic manner has largely been set aside on these sessions, and there's a sincerity in this work that he doesn't always allow himself when tackling his own songs (though the lyric sheet translates the songs into Korean, just in case you feared he'd abandoned all his eccentricities). Wolf of the Cosmos may call into question the status of Will Oldham as a songwriter, but it shows that as a performer, Bonnie "Prince" Billy is doing some of the finest work of his career. ~ Mark Deming
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Rock - Released August 27, 2018 | Drag City Records

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Pop - Released August 6, 2018 | Drag City Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released July 9, 2018 | Drag City Records

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Pop - Released August 13, 2018 | Drag City Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 8, 2019 | Drag City

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Film Soundtracks - Released July 7, 2015 | Harvest Records (US1A)

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Alternative & Indie - Released September 10, 2019 | Drag City

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Rock - Released September 10, 2018 | Drag City Records

Will Oldham has taken on enough different personas over the course of his career -- recording under several different names, most of them variations on the Palace rubric, and in every style, from the stark solo performances of Days in the Wake to the polished "Nashville Sound" arrangements of Sings Greatest Palace Music -- that he seems to be as much a character actor as a musician. (And he's worked as a professional actor, making the analogy all the more fitting.) With this in mind, this collection of Bonnie "Prince" Billy performances recorded for broadcast on the late John Peel's BBC radio show finds Oldham revisiting a number of songs from throughout his career, but with a different perspective, as if he's choosing to re-think his character as he reinterprets his work. The Bonnie "Prince" Billy on Pond Scum performs in a cooler and more refined manner than the troubled man on Days in the Wake or There Is No-One What Will Take Care of You, but the arrangements are spare and whisper-quiet. Though his tenor is better controlled here, his voice cracks and wanders enough to remind listeners this persona is kin to the lost souls who dominated Oldham's early work. This collection can be read as another example of Oldham's stylistic shape-shifting, yet the relative calm and direct approach of these performances also allows for a straightforward appreciation of his songwriting. These versions of "Stable Will," "Jolly One," "Drunk at the Pulpit," and "Trudy Dies" sound emotionally honest and both beautiful and troubling as Oldham's wordplay, by turns mannered and spontaneous, cries out over a minimal backdrop of guitar. On Pond Scum, these songs seem to escape fully formed from Oldham's soul, even the no-frills cover of Prince's "The Cross," and if one has to take an educated guess about which Bonnie "Prince" Billy we get on this album, it's certain that what he has to say is well worth hearing. ~ Mark Deming