Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wednesday-music.com indie music profile: Bonnie "Prince" Billy

Posted By on Wed, Mar 31, 2010 at 12:58 PM

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Hillbilly hipster and Louisville born Will Oldham, also known as Bonnie “Prince” Billy, with a voice that has been described as "a fragile sort-of warble frittering around haunted melodies in the American folk or country tradition" is know for his punk/folk/roots/indie aesthetic.  Throughout the mid to late 1990’s, Will performed and released albums under various names, all including the word “Palace”: Palace Brothers, Palace Songs and Palace Music.

His explanation, as he told Matt Ashare was that “when you have a name of a group or an artist, then you expect that the next record, if it has the same name, should be the same group of people playing on it. And I just thought we were making a different kind of record each time, with different people, and different themes, and different sounds. So I thought it was important to call it something different so that people would be aware of the differences.”

According to Will, the name Bonnie “Prince” Billy “has so many different references that it could almost have a life of its own.”  They include ‘Bonnie’ Prince Charlie an 18th century Jacobite, Nat King Cole, and Billy the Kid who real name was William Bonney or Billy Bonney.”

The name doesn’t really matter because from album to album, his “shambling and often sparse music against his creaky, world-weary voice and literate lyrics” remains the same.  Chris Baldwin called Will an “Appalachian post-punk solipsist” and compared him to Nick Cave and Loudon Wainwright III.

Back in the late 1980’s, before he was Bonnie “Prince” Billy the musician, he was an actor appearing in a bunch of films, none of which I am familiar.

Will’s songs have been covered by some pretty significant artists: Johnny Cash, who recorded “I See a Darkness” after hearing it on a mix tape; PJ Harvey, who hopes to record an album of country duets with him; and Björk, who says she is passionate about his music.

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Since 1996, Bonnie “Prince” Billy has released an album every year; March 23, 2010 marked the release of his twentieth LP, The Wonder Show of the World.

Click here for a May 11, 2009 set and interview recorded for World Café by WXPN.  Click here for a May 12, 2009 set and interview recorded by WNYC’s Soundcheck.  Click here for a few songs streaming on rhapsody.  Click here for a September 03, 2009 session recorded by the great site, daytrotter.com.  Click here for an August 12, 2006 session recorded by Minnesota Public Radio's The Current.  Visit the band’s myspace page here and website here.

Check here to see if Bonnie "Prince" Billy has any gigs scheduled near you.

As always, whenever possible, please buy your music from your local independent music store by people who know and love music and not from retailers like Wal-Mart (soulless, globally-homogenizing, community-killers) or i-Tunes (albums should be listened to as an entire composition with album cover and liner notes in hand). Incidentally, these two companies sell more music than any other retailer in the United States. That my friend, bites.

If you agree, please visit wednesday-music.com! Then, join the once weekly (on Wednesday) mailing list or better yet, join the pep squad and get tons of free junk (actually, just wednesday-music stickers and pencils- but really great stickers and pencils).

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