Letting Go

The Letting Go

3.5 2
by Bonnie "Prince" Billy
     
 

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Will Oldham has usually preached the gospel of less-is-more, but after an own-covers record that emanated from the belly of Nashville itself (Bonnie Prince Billy Sings Greatest Palace Songs), followed by a collaboration with guitarist Matt Sweeney (Superwolf) and a churning live record (

Overview

Will Oldham has usually preached the gospel of less-is-more, but after an own-covers record that emanated from the belly of Nashville itself (Bonnie Prince Billy Sings Greatest Palace Songs), followed by a collaboration with guitarist Matt Sweeney (Superwolf) and a churning live record (Summer in the Southeast), his work began to seem positively indulgent. The Letting Go is not quite as far a stretch, but it is yet another intriguing departure. Granted, its approach would strike most bands as skeletal, but compared to his last solo album of originals, 2003's Master and Everyone, it sounds downright gaudy. It was recorded in Iceland with a producer, Valgeir Sigurosson, who gets more out of Oldham's voice and songs than has ever been heard on record. Oldham's harmony companion, Dawn McCarthy from Faun Fables, takes a much larger role than her predecessor on Master and Everyone, and her credit for harmony arrangements tells you everything you need to know about how important she is to the success of this album. Oldham's songwriting is breathtaking, close to the best of his career, although little changed from the norm -- his surreal, fatalistic take on Americana Gothic. "Cursed Sleep" is especially wonderful, with a string arrangement that harks back to Nick Drake's "Way to Blue," haunted vocals from McCarthy the chanteuse far in the background, and a set of lyrics that build up to a tragic peak ("Cursed love is never ended, cursed eyes are never closing, cursed arms are never closing, cursed children never rising, cursed me never despising"). To the other extreme is "Cold & Wet," a downright jaunty (despite the lyrics), fingerpicked blues of the type that Mississippi John Hurt would have recorded for Vanguard in the mid-'60s, and percussion from Dirty Three drummer Jim White that could be confused with electric drums or the worst recorded organic drum set ever heard. Truth to tell, since the quality of Oldham's songwriting has rarely wavered, the excellent arrangements and McCarthy's contributions make The Letting Go the best of his career to this point.

Product Details

Release Date:
09/19/2006
Label:
Drag City
UPC:
0781484042020
catalogNumber:
420
Rank:
85775

Related Subjects

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Bonnie "Prince" Billy   Primary Artist
Valgeir Gudjonsson   Electric Piano
Paul Oldham   Bass,Bass Guitar
Will Oldham   Guitar,Vocals
Sveinbjarnardóttir   Violin
Dawn McCarthy   Vocals
Greta Guðnadóttir   Violin
Emmett Kelly   Guitar
Hrafnkell Orri Egilsson   Cello
Orunn Osk Marinosdottir   Viola
Eiríkur Orri Ólafsson   Flugelhorn
Thórunn Ósk Marinósdóttir   Viola
Jim White   Drums

Technical Credits

Will Oldham   Composer
Dawn McCarthy   Arranger,Composer
Nico Muhly   String Arrangements
Becky Blair   Paintings
Ryder McNair   String Arrangements
Valgeir Sigurðsson   Engineer

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The Letting Go 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Over the course of his fifteen-year career, Will Oldham has proved himself one of America's most enduring, if idiosyncratic, singers, someone who, despite frequent sharp turns and collaborations, has crafted a voice that is unmistakably his. Having enjoyed his Palace records but dropping off somewhere after the first couple of 'Bonnie Prince Billy' records, I first heard this play at a cinema showing of the movie he recently starred in, Old Joy, and was immediately struck but its spaciousness, the use of strings, and its departure from his usual strangled folk. The rich production -- while it will, on principle even, turn some people off -- is so artfully done that it feels less like the padding these additions can so often be than a perfect embellishment of Oldham's intensely personal, elliptical narratives. Dawn McCarthy from the Faun Fables, who provides mesmerising, constantly surprising back-up vocals, is less a constant presence than a ghost, rising up when you least expect it, providing some of the records most enduring hooks. Most of all, Oldham seems completely at ease on this record, with himself, with his instruments, with his words, which makes the record a pleasure to listen to, and much less of an ordeal than many of the LPs to come out under the 'Bonnie' moniker. After the WTF moment with the Greatest hits album, and his great dabbling with rougher textures on the Superwolf collaboration, Oldham continues to prove there is very little he is not capable of "for further proof, check out his recent video clip of Kanye West's 'Can't Tell Me Nothin'."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago