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Bonnie "Prince" Billy

Singer's Grave/A Sea of Tongues

Singer's Grave/A Sea of Tongues

UPC: 781484060413

Format: LP (2 disc)

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Will Oldham's path has never been straight and narrow. Over his lengthy, prolific run, the warbly-voiced troubadour has peppered his heartbreakingly beautiful songwriting with moments of absurdity, humor, and deeply unexpected or confounding moves that could spell commercial suicide for a lesser artist. Early on he changed the name of his project almost record to record, offering albums as Palace, Palace Brothers, and under his given name before settling with the Bonnie "Prince" Billy moniker. In the time between 2011's Wolfroy Goes to Town and his 11th full-length, Singer's Grave/A Sea of Tongues, Oldham offered up an EP of reworked songs from deep in his catalog, an album of Everly Brothers covers, and a completely unannounced album he self-released and distributed, carrying copies in person to various independent record stores. So it should come as no huge surprise that the first largely available album of new Bonnie "Prince" Billy material in years is largely reworkings of songs from the most significant album just before it. The majority of the eleven tracks on Singer's Grave are revisions of tunes that first appeared on Wolfroy Goes to Town or were released in the same general time-frame. Wolfroy tunes like "Night Noises," "Quail and Dumplings," and "We Are Unhappy" re-appear, in some cases replacing the spare, late-night confessional feel of the originals with rollicking bluegrass instrumentation. "No Match" is refurbished as "Old Match," trading the soft wooziness of the Wolfroy version for a spirited, drum-heavy arrangement and swapping out Angel Olsen's sad-eyed backing vocals for a full-on gospel choir. The difference in some cases almost feels overly theatrical, with "So Far and Here We Are" recasting the protracted folk dirge that was once titled "New Whaling" as an electrified slab of cowboy rock with caterwauling backing vocals standing in for the ghostly chorus of the original. All told, Singer's Grave remains valid and engaging by offering such vivid counterpoints to the usually subdued Wolfroy Goes to Town versions. Oldham's intentions behind re-recording these relatively recent songs are puzzling, but the curious nature of the album is just another chapter of the mysterious, and in this case highly enjoyable saga of Bonnie "Prince" Billy. ~ Fred Thomas


Disc 1:
1 - Night Noises
2 - So Far and Here We Are
3 - There Will Be Spring
4 - Quail and Dumplings
5 - We Are Unhappy
6 - It's Time to Be Clear
7 - Whipped
8 - Old Match
9 - Mindlessness
10 - New Black Rich (Tusks)
11 - Sailor's Grave a Sea of Sheep
Disc 2:
1 - That's My Kind of Night
2 - Better Than I Used to Be
3 - Let Me Love You
4 - There Are Worse Things I Could Do
5 - Loving You Is Fun
6 - Die Young
7 - Take Care
8 - I'm on My Way Home Again