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The Wonder Show of the World

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Album Review

Although The Wonder Show of the World is the first Bonnie "Prince" Billy record to feature a co-billing with the Cairo Gang, he's been accompanied by guitarist Emmett Kelly many times, both as part of his live band and in the studio for some of his best work of the 2000s (The Letting Go, Lie Down in the Light). This time it's special, though, with Kelly in the limelight like he's never been on record and a spare, no-frills production to emphasize the music-making on display. His playing is fluid and virtuosic but never showy, and his range is impressive, from fingerpicked guitar to lazy but jagged country-rock (on the occasional track with drums) to the brooding, stately "Teach Me to Bear You," where he tears off a solo channeling Eric Clapton during the last few seconds of a five-minute track. As always, Will Oldham's lyrics never fail to impress, and the best are front-loaded. The mystery of the opener, "Troublesome Houses," is revealed quickly ("I once loved a girl, but she couldn't take that I visited troublesome houses"). He inhabits his characters fully, and his lyrics reveal these characters' inner thoughts in intriguing fashion: some are stark and declamatory, others hurt and questioning, still others simply puzzled and helpless when faced with the hands they've been dealt. More than most Bonnie "Prince" Billy records, this is one of those austere records, filled with lyrical archaisms — fans will think first of Master and Everyone — but Kelly and company prove a capable foil for the monolith of Oldham's rustic songwriting and singing.

Customer Reviews

Brittle yet soft

Possibly Bonnie "Prince" Billy's most perfect album yet, slips out virtually unnoticed, with a very muted fanfare, unlike last year's 'Beware' which seemed to get quite a lot of attention, and yet was mildly disappointing compared to his previous releases like 'Lie Down In The Light' and 'The Letting Go'.

This LP is crisp and brittle yet soft and soothing at the same time. 8 of the 10 tracks are Prince Billy stunners - 'Where Wind Blows' and 'Kids' are early standouts for me.

If you've ever been vaguely interested in Bonnie Prince, give this a listen.

There is no one as prolific and yet consistantly excellent as BPP. Maybe Smog/Bill Callahan - no one else I can think of.

Best yet

I think this is the best so far,a gentle and understated album with over half of the tracks real standouts.No bells & whistles for the release of this one but for an under the radar job it's great.

love him

I love bonnie prince billy, i find he's music relaxing and peaceful, would have to say the letting go album is my favourite, but all of his albums are good, worth a purchase if you like this sort of music :)

Biography

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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