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Boomkat Product Review:
Sneaking up on you with all the stealth of a Raconteurs album, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy returns with a brand new album - not a covers album (like the recent Ask Forgiveness) and not a sketched collection of demos (like the even more recent Wai Notes), but a proper studio-recorded follow-up to 2006's The Letting Go. Musically, Lie Down In The Light is a lot less flashy and polished than its Valgeir Sigurdsson-produced predecessor, dropping the string sections and carefully sculpted electronic elements in favour of a more traditional country sound, the most recent precedent for which would be Master & Everyone.
Overall you'd have to view this newie as a generally more upbeat affair than that 2003 LP, but both albums benefit from the bright, unfussy production of Lambchop's Mark Nevers. In addition to a core band comprising brother Paul Oldham, guitarist Emmett Kelly and new vocal partner Ashley Webber, the Bonnie Prince plays host to an extended cast of contributors, providing trad Nashville elements like pedal steel and fiddle, or less obviously country-compatible instruments like trombone and clarinet (the latter of which lends a slight ragtime feel to 'For Every Field There's A Mole'). It's oddly refreshing to hear an artist of Will Oldham's calibre shying away from any pressures to push his sound into unexpected directions, and instead return to such well-trodden territory as the articulate Western sounds heard on this album. He's just writing songs - and they're plenty good enough to not require any dressing up or twisting. Oldham actually sounds unconventionally chipper on the likes of 'So Everyone', which exudes a joyful classic rocking cheer, and based on first impressions there's really not much here to indicate Oldham's penchant for comically overstated grimness, as most famously illustrated on I See A Darkness. In some senses Lie Down In The Light is too crowded a record for introspection even, and only during a few rare instances (notably 'Missing One' and the album's title track) does Oldham sound sufficiently left to his own devices to establish a real intimacy with the listener. That actually might be a good thing: it's great to hear him stepping away a little from that cliché of the solitary singer-songwriter and embracing a more outward-looking music. Highly Recommended.