Breaking through the dirt and shooting upward into our atmosphere is a new variety of exotic Bonnie Prince Billy plant. Stronger. Stinkier. It blooms in low light and cold but thrives in the sun as well, showing enticing s... more »pots and eating small creatures as they wander into its jaws. They had it coming, they were weak...and you re next! Beware. Though Beware shares spit with its immediate predecessor, Lie Down in the Light, its reach is longer, its arches more grandiose. Where fiddle and steel contribute their rustic timbre alongside guitars and voices, a thickening thud of low tone rolls beneath, giving the record a bottom that s fun to watch bounce in new clothes. This indensifies the air and heralds Beware as Bonny s most ambidextrous record to date even more so than The Letting Go! A listen or two through and you too may conclude that this could also be the great Bonnie Prince Billy contempo-country record though, as always, the Prince goes his own special way, even when climbing the charts with brawny arms and classic titles like I Don t Belong to Anyone, You Can t Hurt Me Now, and I Am Goodbye.« less
Breaking through the dirt and shooting upward into our atmosphere is a new variety of exotic Bonnie Prince Billy plant. Stronger. Stinkier. It blooms in low light and cold but thrives in the sun as well, showing enticing spots and eating small creatures as they wander into its jaws. They had it coming, they were weak...and you re next! Beware. Though Beware shares spit with its immediate predecessor, Lie Down in the Light, its reach is longer, its arches more grandiose. Where fiddle and steel contribute their rustic timbre alongside guitars and voices, a thickening thud of low tone rolls beneath, giving the record a bottom that s fun to watch bounce in new clothes. This indensifies the air and heralds Beware as Bonny s most ambidextrous record to date even more so than The Letting Go! A listen or two through and you too may conclude that this could also be the great Bonnie Prince Billy contempo-country record though, as always, the Prince goes his own special way, even when climbing the charts with brawny arms and classic titles like I Don t Belong to Anyone, You Can t Hurt Me Now, and I Am Goodbye.
"Having lent an ear since the Bonnie Prince's Palace days, I have to confess I've fallen off the bandwagon of late. I still dutifully check in, but truth be told --- which of his albums have topped There Is No One What Will Take Care of You & I See A Darkness?
His albums always had their fair share of moments. Critics has often cited a lo fi mix of introspective Neil Young cut with an Apalachian echo of Leonard Cohen. At worst, it's been a turtle paced warble of esoteric ambiguities.
As prolific & impulsive as Oldham is, he has often proved himself to be equally erratic. As mellow as he can be, some are content to let him coast along business as usual. Personally, I've wondered what would happen if he put some oomph! into it & see what happens.
Well, am I'm happy to report that just what he's done here.
This is the Bonnie Prince's most refreshing, energetic & focused record to date. The sound of shaking the sleep off or to quote, I Don't Belong To Anyone, "time has come to lay childish things to the dirt".
Or perhaps the whole album is best summed up with the anthem, Life's Work: "I take this load on/it's my life's work/to bring you into the light/from out of the dark."
Kicking off with Beware Your Only Friend, with its backing chorus & cricketing fiddles, one gets the sense that he's thrown open the windows of a musty attic & let some fresh air in.
You Can't Hurt Me Now follows laced with a moody, vintage pedal steel. All of which makes this Oldham's most unabashedly Country record since Sings Greatest Palace Music. But where the Nashville stylings on Greatest came off as a bit too self-conscious, here things sound organic & genuine.
That said, the album's closer, Afraid Ain't Me ends things on an unexpected Psyche Folk Jazz fusion note that brings John Martyn's Solid Air to mind.
Elsewhere, playful touches of trumpet, flute & sax help make Beware one of the most musically diverse offerings in the Oldham catalogue.
Here is Oldham at his most accessible & joyful. A true stand out in a trend setting career that while prolific, on occasion seems willfully arbitrary.
Music to hear again and again.
I. Thompson | 03/26/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I heard of this album on the radio, and liked the snippet they played, so decided to try the whole cd. I loved it the first time, and now that I've played it over and over and over again, I like it even more.
I like the twangy places, melodies of all the songs, rhythm...it's all just excellent. This was not the normal music I used to listen to, but I'm a fan now....."
A Profound and Playful Exploration of the Complexities of Lo
Steven Streufert | Willow Creek, CA | 03/19/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"[THIS REVIEW MAINLY COVERS THE THEMATIC ELEMENTS OF THE ALBUM AND LYRICS, plus it tries to reveal the game that is afoot. Easy answers, there are none. Take the time to read, to listen, LOOK.]
Aptly named, "Beware," Will Oldham's subtle and mysterious new album is not what it initially seems. Depths of strange light and dark meaning emerge with repeated listening. The cover presents a skull visage against sinister black, a pale orb of the title's warning hovering above; on the back a surging planetary volcano. Even the disc's palindromic catalog number, DC666CD, suggests malignancy. What is he the "prince" of, darkness? Or a strange, hidden light?
From the start the upbeat back-porch country of "Beware Your Only Friend" establishes the lightest mood of Oldham's career. Recorded with muted, mostly acoustic instrumentation, soft percussion, violin, pedal steel, and a host of guest instrumentalists, this album slyly deceives with warm sunshine even as it praises the needs for love and home which cause us most pain. He may want to be your only friend, but "Watch out for these silent thoughts/That's where the seed of soul-sucking grows" stands immediately as warning. Buried under the playful lilt of the tune, "beware of me" and "each who comes around you takes some of your light" belie deep suspicion.
But Oldham moves toward uplift rather than fright. Turning from the old song's "nobody knows the trouble I've seen," he substitutes "everyone"--"that's the thing about trouble you can love." Though the refrain, "you can't hurt me now," suggests the sense of distance and separation that pervade everywhere on the record, he knows that in the shared "belly laugh" is a human commonality that is "god's plan," a potential that is "destiny."
As he pulls "ridge to ridge" to "make wondrous bridge" for another, we know we have entered another realm. "I take this load on/It is my life's work/To bring you into the light/Out of the darkness" verges on the messianic. The massed choral backing and swelling saxophone reach Floydian proportions, salvation being achieved through music and wild, unbounded feeling: "this song becomes/The melody of you/As you're the song of me."
From innocence to experience--"God bless us as we cross/From greensides into darker" --he moves in a "pit of bodies" which is humanity itself, and is "loved by all." "Our beauties try to crush us," but the overwhelming is ameliorated by the joy of holding a new baby up in the air. But change brings loss, freedom and the road of individual whim call:"It was bound to happen/From when you first knew you/And pulled apart with will/ From those around you."
"If you listen to me you are lost," says the playful patron saint of sad longing, but the heart may find "a purpose" that holds it, beyond "childish things," and leads to illumination. Concluding, he's in a Luciferian (the bringer of light) tone: "Trust to me your little ones/Slow and sweet I teach." Through country and over ridges wily Billy leads us to the secret, the end of humanity that tries to "block my greatest moments." Purified with "scalding tears" in a bath that drains fears, he stands "Cold and clear" before a final black sky Mystery. A hoedown this is not. "Afraid ain't me," he says in this marriage of heaven and hell in the human heart.
Bonnie Prince Billy is a cryptic alchemist playing esoteric wisdom games; but he is also a trickster who seeks to fool the listener through fun and music toward ultimate questions and the opening of real feeling and relation in a tarnished and absurd, yet still beautiful world.
Reviewed by Steven Streufert"
E. Promis | Tucson, AZ | 03/24/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I must admit that before I gave this album a five star rating, I gave it about five listens from beginning to end. Each time it made my soul that much more satisfied, joyous, and expectant for the next go-round. A pleasure for new Billy fans as well as the 'ole Oldham crowd."