Thursday, February 01, 2007

Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Lay & Love

Download: Bonnie"Prince" Billy - Lay & Love

There is something strangely haunting about all of Will Oldham's music. His cracked, threadbare voice and somber songs are like little wisps of Southern wind floating in from some desolate American hinterland. Occasionally, Oldham lets his minimalism work against him, and his songs suffer from emotional inertia. But for the most part, Oldham knows when to let the light break through his dark compositions; he knows the power of a simple lyric of love or a major chord when the mood is decidedly minor.

"Lay and Love," his latest twelve-inch single, comes hot on the heels of the well received The Letting Go. Unfairly overlooked on critics' year-end lists, The Letting Go found Oldham stretching out, forgoing the starkness of Master and Everyone and indulging in expansive string arrangements and layered instrumentation. The results were striking, and the record lacked none of the emotional heft of its predecessors.

Here, Oldham abandons that approach and strips down, and, once again, the strength of his songwriting saves the tune from being too dry, too bare, too severe. But I can't help but wonder whether one of those fancy Letting Go arrangements would give the song a little more room to breathe.

(Pete Farrell)


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