There were times in Bonnie Prince Billy‘s dark musical past when you couldn’t imagine him ever unfurrowing that brow, but someone has clearly been slipping something into his bourbon lately.
While this most recent effort may be far from the big sonic grin of an act like The Ting Tings, it is the sound of Will Oldham with a cheeky smirk spreading slowly but surely across his face.
Following 2007’s mini-LP of covers Ask Forgiveness, Lie Down In The Light is the Kentucky-born cult legend’s seventeenth release as the Bonnie Prince, and is easily his most upbeat and infectious effort to date. Of course there are still the trademark poetic tales of heartbreak and existential angst we have come to expect from Oldham – this time, though, they are delivered by a new, incredibly talented troupe of musicians driving a whole host of lovely melodies with clunking keys, subtle percussion, shimmering acoustic guitars, banjos, violins, woozy horns and soulful harmonies to beguiling effect.
So Everyone, Something (The Glory Goes), I’ll Be Glad, Lie Down In The Light, You Remind Me Of and You Want That Picture are some of the best examples of these with Ashley Webber – Oldham’s latest duetting partner – providing the warm female vocals.
Of course the melancholy is still on display on occasion – this wouldn’t be a Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy album without at least a hint of it. What’s Missing Is, Willow Trees Bend and Missing One are the old school fan-appeasing efforts on the record but these are just a few nods to the past in a work which sees Oldham set his sights firmly on the future.
He also experiments with his singing style for the first time, his voice more expressive than ever before, breaking and cracking in all the right places and even soaring up to falsetto on various tracks with ease – playful opener Easy Does It showcasing perfectly the impressive vocal range we have never heard until now.
Recorded with Nashville’s Mark Nevers (Lambchop, Calexico), Lie Down In The Light is the sound of a musician at ease, quietly and calming experimenting with his sound and subsequently coming up with his finest work to date. Devotees won’t believe it possible, but this enigmatic, prolific and fiercely creative country/folk star just got infinitely more interesting.