Album Review: Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, 'Beware'

One wonders if Will Oldham's prolific nature sometimes works against him. After all, it's hard to have a landmark album when almost every year brings a new and worthy addition to an already overflowing discography. "Beware" is the indie-folk iconoclast-troubadour's latest under the Bonnie "Prince" Billy moniker he's been using almost exclusively for the last decade, and it's yet another winning effort -- one that finds him embracing a fleshed-out country-rock sound straight out of the '70s and some lyrical rays of sunshine that occasionally penetrate a cloudy landscape.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

The cover image is an homage to Neil Young's classic 1975 downer "Tonight's the Night," but despite its title, "Beware" isn't an album full of dread. "I Don't Belong to Anyone" portrays a sense of isolation but the gentle mandolin, cooing backing vocals and lyrics ("It's kind of easy to have some fun/When you don't belong to anyone") make it more uplifting than melancholy.

While Oldham may find himself alone in a lyrical sense, he has small army of backing musicians providing accompaniment on everything from marimba to cornet to flute. The songs never gets cluttered, though; the Nashville-by-way-of-Laurel-Canyon sound is always complementary to Oldham's vocals which remain at the forefront.

Here he sounds more assured than ever, a diffident drawl giving way to a confident croon, particularly on "I Won't Ask Again," which can accurately be described as pretty.

Oldham still shines brightest when working in wide open spaces. "There Is Something I Have to Say" has the sparsest arrangement on the album and with just his voice and minimal guitar Oldham creates something that is foreboding and inviting, a trick he has perfected over the years.


Download These: "There Is Something I Have to Say," Heart's Arms," "You Don't Love Me"

By J. Freedom du Lac |  March 16, 2009; 11:55 PM ET Reviews
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