Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Letting Go

Revered by critics and a devoted cadre of fans, Will Oldham -- who records primary under the moniker Bonnie "Prince" Billy -- is an artist that I have more appreciated than actually enjoyed over the years. His distinct brand of quiet, pastoral, almost gothic Americana, lyrically gorgeous, beautifully arranged and sweetly sung, has produced some truly lovely songs, but in larger doses has at times made me long for a little more variation of tempo and mood. Since the holidays, though, Oldham's most recent record, The Letting Go, has been in heavy rotation at my house. It was released late in 2006, and I didn't even hear it until I was chastised by more than a few friends for leaving it off my year-end list of favorite records. To those folks I will readily say, I stand corrected. Not only is this a consistently beautiful record, with some exquisite tunes, but several tracks are far more muscular and impassioned than I thought Oldham was capable of, with electric guitars, sweeping string arrangements and some powerful backing vocals (if that term even does them justice) from Dawn McCarthy of Faun Fables. Check out the record's centerpiece, "Cursed Sleep," to see what I'm talking about.