Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Lie Down In The Light
I’m no authority on contemporary Americana or Alt Country, I have a passing acquaintance with Wilco and Grandaddy and the like but certainly no expert. However, what I do know when I hear it is good song writing, and this album is absolutely riddled with it.
The music is sparse, stripped down to twanging guitars, a little peddle steel, a few tinkling ivories, what can only be called percussion rather than drumming and two extraordinarily beautiful voices. Mr Oldham’s world weary croak is pressed hard up against the pure tones of Ashley Webber.
There is real craftsmanship at work here. Never complicated, the essence of each song is close to the surface, but that’s not to say that these songs are shallow, far from it. ‘You Remind Of Something’ picks over a man’s relationships in a complex and tender way; ‘You remind me of something, a song that I am, and you sing me back in to myself’ runs the refrain over a gentle harmony and fiddle, a touching and lovely song.
The album continues in very much the same vein, ‘For Every Field There’s A Mole’ introduces a lovely electric piano (as well as one of the best song titles this year), ‘Other’s Gain’ is a paean to socialist sharing (There’s only so much on this Earth to go around’) and to keeping one’s loved ones nearby, ‘Missing One’ is a similarly heartfelt ode to a lost love.
It takes a number of listens to really absorb the full texture and subtly of some of the songs here, case in point is the title track, with is lovely bright picked guitar and gentle harmony and then out of nowhere what sounds like a Jew’s harp going ‘boing’ in the background, a slightly surreal moment!
This record is up there with some of the finest work the insanely prolific Will Oldham has ever produced and on each listen is slowly growing in to one of my favourite albums of the year so far.
Top Tracks: ‘You Remind Me Of Something’, ‘Other’s Gain’, ‘I’ll Be Glad’.
Released 19/05/08 on Domino Records