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Lie Down In the Light

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Album Review

So who's been giving Will Oldham singing lessons? The artist currently known as Bonnie "Prince" Billy has displayed a rather inconsistent skill set when it comes to vocals in the 15 years since the Palace Brothers' debut album, but on 2008's Lie Down in the Light, Oldham sounds more tuneful than ever before; on the opener, "Easy Does It," he could pass as the leader of some better than average country-rock outfit from the early '70s, which matches the jaunty but laid-back vibe of the tune. Some of the songs here recall the more spare and troubling style that marked Oldham's earlier work, such as "So Everyone," "Willow Trees Bend," and "What's Missing Is," but he's still showing a greater control over his vocal instrument than before, sounding like a real singer in a way he often hasn't in the past, and while the production and arrangements on this album are lean and uncluttered, they're rooted in a warmth and lyricism that make this one of the most satisfying albums Oldham has offered as Bonnie "Prince" Billy. Oldham's obsession with Southern gothic archetypes hasn't changed much on this set, but the 11 new songs here feel fresh and unforced, with a grace in the wordplay that matches the natural flow of the music, and whether the mood reflects hope ("For Every Field There's a Mole"), longing ("Lie Down in the Light"), or contemplation of the mysteries ("You Want That Picture"), these songs hit their target true and clean. Lie Down in the Light doesn't sound like an immediate masterpiece in the manner of 2006's The Letting Go, but on the whole it's as strong and satisfying as anything Oldham has released in the last ten years, and it's encouraging that he keeps getting stronger and refining his gifts with the passage of time. And who knows what will happen if he keeps seeing that vocal coach.


Born: 24 December 1970 in Louisville, KY

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

After his stints performing as Palace, Palace Songs, Palace Brothers, and under his own name throughout the '90s, by the end of the decade Will Oldham seemed to finally settle on the Bonnie "Prince" Billy moniker as the main outlet for his work. Regardless of the name he used to release his music or the musicians supporting him, Oldham's style remained largely the same, pitting shambling and often sparse music against his creaky, world-weary voice and literate lyrics. The Louisville, Kentucky native...
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Lie Down In the Light, Bonnie "Prince" Billy
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