Bill Callahan & Bonnie Prince Billy – Blind Date Party – Album Review
by Killian Laher
Twenty years ago, if you were to consider the prospects for Bill Callahan and Will Oldham (Bonnie Prince Billy) you would be far more optimistic about Oldham than Callahan. Will Oldham had come off the back of his first album as Bonnie Prince Billy, I See A Darkness, which made a major impression critically and saw the title track covered by Johnny Cash. On the other hand, Bill Callahan was toiling away as Smog in relative obscurity to all but a few. If anything in recent years, it’s Callahan who has produced the more impactful work, particularly since going under his own name, while Oldham/Bonnie Prince Billy has leaned far more towards country, yet is far too weird to trouble the mainstream.
But it’s fair to say both are significant figures in the Americana/indie-folk world. They teamed up over lockdown to record a series of covers and they are compiled on this album. Their styles are quite different and they don’t gel together particularly well. On their cover of Dave Rich’s I’ve Made Up My Mind they rope in Alasdair Roberts and go REAL country. Their version of Smog’s Our Anniversary is odd, all growling guitars and Oldham sounding almost like Bryan Ferry as they play fast and loose with the melody. Lou Reed’s 80s-era MOR Rooftop Garden is flipped into a kind of hillbilly hoedown! Later, the cod-reggae of Iggy Pop’s I Want To Go To The Beach and Palace Music’s Arise Therefore don’t work particularly well.
It works better when they play it straight, with Bill Callahan to the fore on tender versions of Steely Dan’s Deacon Blues, and Robert Wyatt’s Sea Song. Fans of Callahan and Bonnie Prince Billy will want to own this, but in truth, it’s a disjointed listen, it doesn’t really hang together as an album.
I’ve Made Up My Mind