Album Reviews

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Best Troubador – Album Review

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Best Troubador – Album Review by Killian Laher

Currently streaming on NPR

Will Oldham does whatever the hell he likes. It’s been a number of years since the last ‘official’ Bonnie Prince Billy album so it stands to reason that, rather than release a new album of originals, he has released an album of covers of the late Merle Haggard. Anybody who has lost sight of Oldham in recent years will listen to this and think “what the heck”. This is quite far removed from Palace, I See A Darkness or any of his more celebrated albums. No this, is pure country music, exemplified by the chirpy guitar licks which kick off the opening track The Fugitive. The instrumentation is at the more adorned end of Oldham’s catalogue – soft brass introduces I’m Always On A Mountain When I Fall, flute on That’s The Way Love Goes and the A.J. Roach sung The Day The Rains Came. Songs like Haggard, Wouldn’t That Be Something, and the pacy, soft shuffle Leonard are very much delivered straight. Slow, quieter tracks like Roses In The Winter and Some of Us Fly suit Oldham a bit better, though still come off sounding a bit… strange. It’s just that the arrangements are so sweet, your ears don’t expect such an idiosyncratic singer. On the Mary Feiock duet Nobody’s Darling they aim for a kind of Gram & Emmylou damaged countrified lament.

Perhaps Haggard’s best-known song, If I Could Only Fly, is rendered as a fairly muted demo, and in typical Oldham fashion it’s shoved at the end of the album. At times (I Always Get Lucky With You, My Old Pal) it’s quite sweet but most of the time you’ll find yourself wondering: what the hell? Certainly if you enjoy country music you might enjoy this but for everyone else, it’s a bit of a stretch.

Track List:

1. The Fugitive
2. I’m Always On A Mountain When I Fall
3. The Day The Rains Came
4. Haggard (Like I’ve Never Been Before)
5. I Always Get Lucky With You
6. Leonard
7. My Old Pal
8. Roses In The Winter
9. Some Of Us Fly
10. Wouldn’t That Be Something
11. Pray
12. That’s The Way Love Goes
13. Nobody’s Darling
14. What I Hate (excerpt)
15. I Am What I Am
16. If I Could Only Fly

Full Album Streaming on NPR here



Categories: Album Reviews, Header, Music

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