Under Review

Bonnie “Prince” Billy

The Letting Go (Drag City)

Review By Dave Fernig


Will Oldham seems to have settled upon the Bonnie “Prince” Billy moniker, but The Letting Go is further proof that he has definitely not settled upon a single approach to making music. The records Oldham released in the 90s under the name Palace generally rocked, and the records he has been releasing this century under the name Bonnie “Prince” Billy have generally been very quiet. The Letting Go never quite fits into either of these extremes, but hints at both. It’s confident without being loud.

Instead of simply turning up his amp to make his songs bolder, Oldham creates layered arrangements that bring his poignant melodies into clear view. The gorgeous lead guitar in “Strange Form of Life” and the dramatic strings in “The Seedling” are just a couple examples. String arrangements are found on roughly half the tracks, and are highly effective.

As in all things Oldham, the vocals are always at the forefront of The Letting Go, even when he whispers. He is deliberate in both the words he chooses and the way he delivers them. The title track’s poetry is especially impressive, as is the strong declaration of “Love Comes to Me.”

Although I can’t help but single out individual tracks, The Letting Go’s greatest strength is quite possibly its consistency. After over a decade of recording (with everyone from Steve Albini to Tortoise), Will Oldham is still making records in which every song is worthwhile, without repeating himself.

Bonnie “Prince” Billy will be showcasing his abilities over three shows at St. James hall on November 9, 10, and 11.