Music Reviews

posted: February 15, 2009

Bonnie Prince Billy – Lie Down in the Light Lie Down in the Light

Drag City CD
Bonnie Prince Billy – Lie Down in the Light

After 2006’s The Letting Go, I’ve been hooked on the music of Will Oldham, aka Bonnie “Prince” Billy (the moniker he’s adopted over the last decade or so). Oldham/BPB has one of the most unique voices in modern folk and independent rock, a tentative and shaky voice that replaces confidence with conviction, allowing the most vulnerable of emotions to slip through at inconvenient times. With Lie Down in the Light, Oldham returns to his roots in Americana and produces his most country-tinged record yet.

Oldham relies on a large assembly of noted Nashville musicians (the album is produced by Mark Nevers of Lambchop) to provide amazingly refined arrangements, full of unexpectedly lucid contributions from banjos, trombones, clarinets and the occasional pedal steel guitar. Oldham’s modern aesthetics won’t remind you of the Grand Ole Opry, but these songs will show you just how vital and forward-thinking the Nashville music scene is, and why it’s currently such a haven for talent.

Most BPB albums are paragons of consistency, which means that while Oldham rarely hits a manic and barely contained sense of exuberance, he never lapses into complacency either. The quiet, almost spooky feel to “(Keep Eye On) Other’s Gain” is punctuated by Will’s humming and a slap or two on the side of his acoustic guitar, which actually serves to heighten the tension. “So Everyone” may stir up a hornet’s nest of lust, however, as he asks his lady love “O kneel down and please me” right before he exalts “I’m a good person and free, and she loves me.” Bonnie “Prince” Billy is good, very good, and with a few more gears he might just hook a larger audience.

–Marc Phillips