BONNIE 'PRINCE' BILLY
Album review: "Wolfroy Goes to Town"
Will Oldham has found a level of success arguably more rare than platinum records or sold-out arenas - music that exists in its own universe. Each of his albums (there are roughly 20, dating back to 1993) sounds as though it were created in a cabin tucked away deep in a countryside that time forgot, resulting in a sweetly apocalyptic brand of folk music that approaches love, death and normal daily pursuits with the same steady calm.
"Wolfroy Goes to Town," released under the Bonnie "Prince" Billy moniker that Oldham has used since the late-'90s, is a relatively quiet, ruminative collection. It's light on the sweeping country-rock that has populated his recent albums; "Quail and Dumplings" is one of the few rollicking numbers that becomes a full-band exercise, and it stops just short of rousing. Mostly, the arrangements are spare, not much more than gently plucked acoustic guitars and maybe pitter-pattering drums. Oldham's voice - reedy, conversational and captivating - is always the centerpiece, and this time he has a worthy foil in Angel Olsen. Her dramatic falsetto contrasts his comfortable croon, adding a rewarding layer to many of these songs.
Oldham's lyrics remain a mixture of spiritual, straightforward and absurd, all delivered with the same care. In Oldham's unique world, a line such as "Nothing is better, nothing is best / We are unhappy, we are unblessed," in "We Are Unhappy," is simply matter-of-fact rather than bleak.
--David Malitz, Sept. 30, 2011