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Bonnie Prince Billy - Wolfroy Goes to Town

  by Paul Waller

published: 12 / 11 / 2011

Bonnie Prince Billy - Wolfroy Goes to Town
Label: Domino Records
Format: CD


Unflatteringly-titled and covered, but heartbreaking and profoundly moving latest album from Bonnie Prince Billy, which proves to be one of his greatest works

I cannot remember what first turned me on to Will Oldham, but I do remember that by the time of Kurt Cobain’s death I was a massive fan. I hated the fact that on 'Joya' he used his real name to release the album under. Palace or Palace Brothers or even Palace Music was a brand by that point for me, was an assurance of quality minimal instrumentation and maximum song writing capabilities. I didn’t even buy 'Joya' becauase of this name change, I felt betrayed so instead I turned to Bill Callahan’s Smog for my daily dosage of depressing story telling folk. Many years later Will Oldham had long been known as Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and I bought both 'Master and Everyone' and the now classic 'I See a Darkness'. These records allowed me to see the error of my wayward ways and I was a fan once again although I still haven’t given 'Joya' a chance. That’s just how I roll; I’m a stubborn bastard that fears change. This brings us neatly to the new album. It’s a record with a horrible front cover and title. 'Wolfroy Goes to Town' is adorned with an unflattering sketch of a posh living-room emblazoned on top of a light pink background. It’s one of the worst covers I’ve seen this year. Thankfully the music beneath the packaging is a wonderful blend of an almost spiritual awakening and gently understated acoustic guitar strokes. When I say spiritual; it’s in the grandiose approach rather than the subject matter. It’s a deeply moving record without delivering any one message or pounding the listener around the head with weak limbed rhetoric or manifestoes. This is his greatest piece of work for twelve years. Elvis would have jumped at the chance to include opener 'No Match' on his final 'Moody Blue' LP. It’s a creeping ballad that surprises the listener with its space and quietness. The surprise is all down to the snail’s pace which is repeated on 'Wolfroy Goes to Town' with each successive track. By the final song, 'Night Noises' I was wondering if I was listening to a bunch of early demos such are the bare bones that are on display. If it wasn’t for the sleepy electric rock guitar that punctuates 'Cows' around half way through you could easily believe that Oldham had gone and done a 'Nebraska', knowing that he couldn’t better the initial rough takes on these beautiful and sometimes hear-breaking melodies. 'Wolfroy Goes to Town' may just be the record that convinces me to finally purchase Joya. I Could be potentially missing out. If it’s half this good then it’s still going to be a great record.

Track Listing:-
1 No Match
2 New Whaling
3 Time To Be Clear
4 New Tibet
5 Black Captain
6 Cows
7 There Will Be Spring
8 Quail And Dumplings
9 We Are Unhappy
10 Night Noises

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live reviews

Shepherds Bush Empire, London, 4/8/2010
Bonnie Prince Billy - Shepherds Bush Empire, London, 4/8/2010
Chris O' Toole wonders if Bonnie Prince Billy's long period of creative energy has finally come to an end after watching a sluggish show with the Cairo Gang at the Shepherds Bush Empire in London
Babylon, Ottawa, 27/8/2003


Beware (2009)
Surprisingly vibrant new album from Will Oldham, under his moniker of Bonnie Prince Billy, which, while losing none of his usual darkness, proves to be more hopeful in its tone than his past work
Cold and Wet (2007)
The Letting Go (2006)
Ease Down The Road (2001)

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