Bonnie Prince Billy - Beware
Beware finds Bonny Prince Billy, Will Oldham to his mum and dad, in an almost joyous mood. Okay, it's not a party album, but whereas his earlier albums, I See A Darkness and Ease Down The Road were stripped down, intensely bleak affairs best experienced in a darkened room alone, Beware is packed with strings, banjos and soaring backing vocals, offering a welcoming warmth rarely found with the prince. This makes it an album to keep the lights on to, and worth finding someone special to share it with.
Billed as Billy's most adventurous album to date, the full sound evokes comparisons to Calexico, My Morning Jacket, Conor Oberst's recent solo work and Neko Case. That's not to say the trademark gloom has been lost, underneath the soaring strings and uplifting horns there still remains the morose lyrical content we've come to expect. Unlike his earlier work, though, the fuller sound allows the feeling of a country hoe-down instead of the soundtrack to a wake. Each track is amongst some of the sweetest, most complete songs Billy has ever made, but special mention must go to Heart's Arms, sure to go down amongst the best tracks in Billy's immense back catalogue of songs.
Special mention must also go to Domino Records, who appear to have let their paranoia over the threat of file-sharing and piracy get the best of them. Each song on the promo copy is broken up by a less than helpful pair of voices, reminding you that 'you are listening to a promo copy of Beware by Bonny Prince Billy', not once but twice in each song. Honestly, do they expect me to make hundreds of copies and hawk them round my local pubs like a dodgy Chinese DVD salesman?
It's testament to how wonderful an album Beware is that even with Domino's best attempts it can't be spoiled by the constant interruptions. Lesser albums would've been destroyed by the breaks, the flow of the music lost forever but the beauty of Beware cannot be denied. The greatest compliment I can pay this album is that I'll be buying a copy as soon as it's released, and so should you. Just don't buy the promo copy.