Bonnie "Prince" Billy
Wed Jun 4 2008
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
Years ago, when Will Oldham performed as Palace, he painted in the broad strokes of youth. His songs were full of emotional fluctuations and elaborate vocal hiccups; with each successive album, he dramatically scrambled his backing band and even his musical focus. As Bonnie “Prince” Billy, his favored nom de guerre for the past decade, Oldham has transitioned to consummate adulthood. His records are steady and sober; some eccentric one-off projects notwithstanding, they deviate from each other only subtly.
The singer’s latest, Lie Downin the Light, features an accommodating group of fine country players. The album presents Oldham as a calming figure whose wisdom and maturity lie somewhere between that of Yoda and the Dalai Lama. A romantic split leads to creepy spiritual clarity: “And I looked at the sky and I knew someday I’d die,” Oldham sings in “You Want That Picture,” a duet with Ashley Webber. “And then everything would be all right.” At other points, he tosses off revelations like a bushy-bearded fortune cookie: “Keep eye on others’ gain and know / There’s only so much here upon the earth to go around.” As is often the case, Oldham’s “Prince” Billy work would benefit from the humor he displays elsewhere: say, in the video depicting him and Zach Galifianakis chilling on a farm to Kanye West’s “Can’t Tell Me Nothin’.” But his stoicism rarely tips into sanctimony, and there is a relaxing ease in the record’s staid maturity. It’s not quite adult contemporary—more like contemporary adult.