Summer in the Southeast
8

  • Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
  • Sea Note/Drag City
  • 2005-11-07

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy seems to have more pseudonyms than Ol’ Dirty Bastard (it cannot be too often those two names are in the first sentence of a review): BPB, Will Oldham, Palace Music/Brothers, Superwolf, The Continental Op. This is BPB’s first live album, recorded in Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and North Carolina in the Summer of 2005 (hence the name).

all based around Oldham’s dark, twisted but ultimately beautiful lyrics and strained, empassioned vocals

Those various projects previously mentioned touch on different intensities but are all based around Oldham’s dark, twisted but ultimately beautiful lyrics and strained, empassioned vocals. Songs from all his collaborations and different handles are included and, interestingly, the different markers set throughout his career seem to sit well together on one long player. He takes with both hands takes the opportunity to show that, unlike many artists, he is willing to experiment as a live performer and create new versions from existing templates.

Where “Master And Everyone” and “Wolf Among Wolves” existed previously as plaintive, guitar and vocal alt-country, the former is represented here as an euphoric ‘fuck you!’ (“I’m now free, master and everyone, servant to all, servant to none”) and the latter as playful country rock (complete with howling wolf sound effects). A lot of this album covers the ground between the 70’s rock of Lynyrd Skynyrd or Neil Young and the fuzzy proto-grunge of Mudhoney or Sebadoh (see “O Let It Be”). A definate departure from type. Olham’s live experience is beefed up by the 4 guitar assault provided by his backing band.

without the places to hide that recording techniques can provide

At other times everything is stripped back completely to basics but without the places to hide that recording techniques can provide (with distortion for example). “A Nomadic Revery” is sung just with an electric guitar and is a beautiful highlight. At one point on “Death To Everyone” all instrumentation and amplification drops out and all you can hear is the band singing acapella, touching on the appalachian folk that must be in the Bearded Bard’s influences somewhere.

The live album is often a way to fulfil the terms of a recording contract, a bored band looking for a quick payday. This seems more than a live album, more than a greatest hits. It shows it shows just another dimension of one of the true eccentric greats of recent American music history. C’est Bon.

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