Will Oldham Looks in the Shadow

I See A Darkness (Palace Records)
Bonnie "Prince Billy"

By Robert Gruber

I See a Darkness is an understated, unvarnished gem of a record, one of those that slowly, quietly works its magic on you with each new spin. Driving it all along is Bonnie "Prince" Billy's (a.k.a. Will Oldham's) sweet, world-weary voice -- broken in all the right spots, hauntingly familiar.

There is a hushed intimacy to these songs, as though they were being performed in church. I guess it's the piano that gives it that vibe -- the piano sounds like one of those old Baptist uprights, pedal-sustained, just barely on the verge of going out of tune.

Odd religious overtones take their place lyrically alongside notions of romance and strange eroticism. In "Death to Everyone," he sings, "I am here, right here, where God puts none asunder/and you, in black dress and black shoe, you do invite me under."

"Another Day Full of Dread" weaves its way along a sparse bass and drum line, with that piano over top as Billy intones, "Today was another day full of dread, but I never said I was afraid/dread and fear should not be confused, by dread I'm inspired, by fear I'm amused." This is music you could while away a rainy day to, and a fine day it would make. To hear this album on vinyl, with just a bit of surface noise, could only enhance the experience. Bonnie "Prince" Billy, you rule.