Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Bonnie Prince Billy

Cursed Sleep
Drag City

The three songs featured on Bonnie Prince Billy’s “Cursed Sleep” single offer just a glimpse at a much larger ice burg that Will Oldham will unveil with The Letting Go later this year. Recorded at Greenhouse Studios in Iceland (Björk, Coco Rosie) these songs embrace a not-so Americana side of Oldham’s songwriting.

He still sings with the passion and poetry of a true Kentucky gentleman. But the full-on string arrangements of “Cursed Sleep” – in all of their grace – hit like a baseball bat to the forehead. The feminine mystique has long served as rich fodder for Oldham’s songs. “Cursed Sleep” is no different. Dawn McCarthy’s (Fawn Fables) semi-classical bellow accompanies Oldham’s slow yodel to haunting affect. Their voices, coupled with arching strings move “Cursed Sleep” to a level of epic warmth and charm that transcends Bonnie Billy’s stylistically bleak presence.

“Signifying Wolf” is a jumble of folk, funk, noise, gospel and junkyard avant-garde. The song’s production bares the mark of hands that have shaped Coco Rosie’s sweet dirge. Rubbing this onto Oldham’s rustic pace eschews BPB’s sound even farther from the shores of Americana.

There’s usually one throw away track on the singles preceding Oldham’s albums. “God’s Little Song” is the least exciting of the three, which is a petty criticism. Strings whine with subtle resonance over a deep dark look into the spiritual and existential unknowns that have guided Oldham from the beginning, and are now carried to stark and exotic new scenery.

--Chad Radford