Bonnie “Prince” Billy
Now Here’s My Plan
I can assure you it is a coincidence that I am reviewing an EP for the second week in a row, and am not so lazy that I have decided to solely review half-albums. It just so happens two of my very favorite artists (The other being The Antlers who released Undersea a couple weeks ago) have released EP’s within a short span, and I feel the need to give my opinion on each. On Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s new EP, Now Here’s My Plan, Will Oldham (who is the real name behind the ridiculous moniker) takes six tracks from his extensive catalogue, rearranges them, and brings them forth in a whole different light. The result turns out to be Oldham’s most consistent release since 1998′s Lie Down In the Light, and further proves he has been one of the greatest songwriters of our generation.
I was familiar with all but one of the tracks Oldham decided to rearrange for Now Here’s My Plan. “I See a Darkness” (off of I See a Darkness), “Three Questions” (Master & Everyone), “Beast for Thee” (Superwolf), “I Don’t Belong to Anyone” (Beware), and “After I Made Love to You” (Ease on Down the Road) are all tracks recorded under the pseudonym of Bonnie “Prince” Billy. But, “No Gold Digger” is a track from Oldham’s previous project, Palace Music, whose music I have had a little trouble getting my hands on.
The real surprise on Oldham’s latest is the rearrangement of “I See a Darkness”, which has gained almost mythical status by being covered by Johnny Cash. It is just a bit confusing that Oldham would tamper with one of his most delicate songs, but somehow it works. It works because Oldham’s tone and delivery along with the scaling guitar and back up vocals change the entire meaning of the song. The beautiful but plodding original version (it is about twice as long) makes it seem as if the darkness Oldham speaks of in the song is slowly overcoming him and there is no escape. In the new version, it is as if it is all but certain the singer will emerge from this darkness. All the words stay the same, so it is unbelievably impressive Oldham can give them such differing connotations through his music.
Another interesting aspect of Now Here’s My Plan is Oldham’s ability to incorporate a southern gospel hymn vibe into the sound without allowing the back-up vocals and instrumentation to become overbearing. Songs like “Three Questions” and “I Don’t Belong to Anyone” take great chances, but Oldham respects the possibilities of the sounds he uses instead of taking them too far.
The crowning achievement of Now Here’s My Plan is the updated version of “Beast For Thee”, which he originally recorded with Matt Sweeney on Superwolf. The use of female duet partner Angel Olsen in place of Sweeney is just the beginning of the beauty to come. The sound is just so much richer, if not completely rearranged, in the newly recorded version. Along with the richer sound, the transitions are much crisper, making the words hit that much harder when they land.
My only complaint is that this wasn’t part of some bigger endeavor, but then again I would just as rather have Will Oldham working on some new music than constantly revisiting his back catalog. But then again, I may have never know “No Gold Digger” if it wasn’t for this EP. It is rare an artist brings something unique and new to previously released material, but doubting Will Oldham is not the person you want to bet against.
Can’t Miss: All of them, but “Beast for Thee” is the star
Can’t Hit: None