CD Review: Bonnie “Prince” Billy — Beware


Bonnie "Prince" Billy


Drag City

By Noel Wurst

Will Oldham and his alter ego Bonnie "Prince" Billy have
been releasing albums for probably 20 years now. Not only have the two of them managed to
never quite sound like anyone else, but each new album also rarely sounds like the
last. From acoustic guitar singer
songwriter material, to instrumental film scores, to a full-band Nashville
sound as found on Beware (BPB’s latest release), while the sound
changes, the message is almost always the same.

lyrics have always pegged him as a bit of an isolationist, not necessarily a
sad one, but one who’s never been 100 percent content with his wandering
lifestyle. The songs have always come
across as overtly confident and even more so masculine, but like most people
who say they’re fine with being alone, part of you as a listener has always
felt the tiniest bit of sadness for him, hoping he’d one day find a nice girl
perhaps, and settle down in his native Kentucky. With Beware, Oldham
drives a point home, almost beating you over the head with the fact that he’s
not only still alone, but that he always will be, and no pity is needed, or
even remotely wanted.

Without even
having to look at the lyrics, song titles like “You Can’t Hurt Me Now,” “You
Don’t Love Me,” and “Afraid Ain’t Me” give the impression that he’s happy,
thrilled, ecstatic about his way of life, and that he didn’t just happen into
it, he’s chosen it. It’s hard to say
whether this is how he’s always felt, or if this is a recent revelation, regardless,
he’s just as convincing as he’s ever been. 

Oldham softly sings on “I Don’t Belong
To Anyone,” “There’s no one who’ll lay
claim on me / It’s kind of easy to have your fun / When you don’t belong to
anyone.” While it’s nice to know that Oldham’s in a happy place, it has to be troubling to
anyone interested in getting close with him that they really shouldn’t bother.

Bonnie "Prince" Billy plays Sticky Fingerz Chicken Shack in Little Rock, AR on June 8. Tickets are available here.

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