Friday, November 25, 2011

Album Review: Bonnie Prince Billy – Master and Everyone

The many-monikered Will Oldham’s 2003 album is one of his sparsest works, mainly consisting of skeletal folk, mainly Oldham’s voice and guitar.

Opening track The Way has a simple, wintry Nick Drake style melody and chorus imploring “love me the way I love you”, with a cello part which carries the song. Little else deviates from this template of gloriously depressed folk. With close up mics, you can here Oldham’s fingers sliding from fret to fret. There are some fine melodies here, especially Joy and Jubilee (where Oldham sounds anything but joyous) where he self-harmonises to great effect.

The proceedings are broken up with some backing vocals from Marty Slayton on several tracks (Ain’t You Wealthy, Ain’t You Wise?, Lessons From What’s Poor), but it’s very much a single-minded vision, with a consistent sound throughout. No superfluous notes are played here, every note has its place.

The hesitant, foreboding Even If Love evokes a dark night in the woods, while the coda of Hard Life rounds things off with some uplifting clean, electric guitar. For those who like their music austere and barely adorned, this is for you.