This is Country Noir, the Cain to Nashville’s innocent Abel. Dark songs about lust and frustration by Kentucky’s most infamous export since Bourbon whiskey - Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy.
‘Beware’ is very much a writer’s album, showcasing the songs of Will Oldham, aka Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy.
As such, it is darker and less democratic than its predecessor, last summer’s ‘Lie Down In The Light’.
Billy still follows his own alternative take on Country music, but this time he is firmly entering Country Noir territory. The music on lie down had a simple warmth that kept billy’s darker musings in check. beware is more ambitious and puts no constraints on the depth of billy’s recollections of his troubles.
Those troubles are almost always caused by women and ‘Beware’ is full of the curses of infidelities, cheating sweethearts and the strains of walking the line, as Johnny Cash would have put it. Purely by its subject matter, ‘Beware’ is a classic country record. Nothing goes on here that hasn’t been sung about before, but Billy’s strength lies in the way he cuts away all frills and adornments until only the most powerful chords are left.
On ‘Beware’, Billy is the boss. He’s the preacher and his word is final. There are backing vocals by Jennifer Hutt and Emmett Kelly, but they merely serve to confirm what Billy has to say. Like the gospel choir backing up the preacher man, the voices say Billy’s the man, hallelujah.
There is no strong duet partner standing up to Billy, like Ashley Webber did on ‘Lie Down’, playing Emmylou Harris to Billy’s Gram Parsons.
Where ‘Lie Down In The Light’ had a down home feel of musicians shooting the breeze on a front porch, ‘Beware’ is colder. I don’t know if it has anything to do with the record having been recorded in October in chilly Chicago, but ‘Beware’ is an altogether more frosty affair. The music twists and stretches, capturing the drama that is inherent in Billy’s lyrics. While Billy’s vocal delivery is always deadpan, it is the musical backing that provides the tension.
‘Beware’ is arguably Billy’s most universal album to date, reaching beyond the hardcorde of the Americana and Alternative Country scene. Fans of Leonard Cohen, Antony And The Johnsons and Nick Cave should check this album out.
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy is touring extensively in the US and Canada from April to the end of June 2009. He will be coming to Europe for ten dates in April and May.
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy European Tour 2009
20/04 Royal Festival Hall, London, UK
21/04 St George’s Church, Brighton, UK
22/04 AB Bruxelles, Bruxelles, Belgium
23/04 Paradiso, Amsterdam, Netherlands
24/04 Cigale, Paris, France
25/04 Printemps de Bourges Festival, Bourges, France
28/04 Espace, Torino, Italy
29/04 Estragon, Bologna, Italy
30/04 Auditorium San Domenico, Foligno (Perugia), Italy
01/05 Le Poste A Gallene, Marseilles, France
US Readers - Buy ‘Beware’ On CD And Vinyl Here!
BUY CD BUY Vinyl
UK And Ireland Readers - Buy ‘Beware’ Here On CD And Vinyl!
BUY CD BUY VINYL