Summer in the Southeast
Will Oldham is inexhaustible as well as unpredictable. This live set recorded during the summer of 2004 goes out of its way to trash his well-crafted American gothic persona. With a four-guitar front line that includes David Bird, Matt Sweeney, and Pink Nasty (who also contributes vocally throughout), Ryder McNair on piano and organ, drummer Peter Townsend (no relation), and brother Paul on bass, Oldham rocks up most of his Bonnie "Prince" Billy shelf and a tossed-in Palace number to shatter the reverence of his earlier live offerings. This one is loose, raw, and full of crackling energy and force. Check the live version of "I See a Darkness" or "Death to Everyone." But this also comes off as a dark, fierce record of broken love songs, as if Oldham is trying by means of this very electric rock & roll band to exorcise the demon of love gone bad -- very bad. And while it's true that these songs have been recorded before, they've never come off like this, like a man at the end of his rope yet refusing to give up the ghost. "A Sucker's Evening" snarls and swirls as Oldham twists and turns each word in his mouth as if it were bitter soiled fruit he needs to spit before it poisons him completely. Country, garage rock, American poetic bile, and sheer venomous energy fuel this terrific set that ranks among Oldham's finest moments on record.