Not as good as Kid Rock…

Here we have another Alternative Country singer making it into the mainstream albeit with music that can hardly be called crossover. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy (real name Will Oldham) is a 39 year old from Kentucky who favours the slow and thoughtful brand of Country & Western that you don’t expect to hear on the radio this side of the big pond. Now the first thing that I need to get off of my chest is that whilst the Press Release states that the Prince does not tour to promote his albums, I then wonder why he feels the need to cut into each song two or three times to point out that this is the promotional copy of the album and no, sir, doing it in different accents does not make it any better!

Like a slightly more upbeat Micah P Hinson, but less folky you can see a real Country & Western influence on the majority of the album, and you can be mistaken for wondering whether this is slightly tongue in cheek. ‘Beware Your Only Friend’ is a gentle mid-tempo number, and it’s the laid back trip that carries on through, ‘You Can’t Hurt Me Now’ that features slide guitar and low strings; “The more I feel myself // The more I am alone” he sings, and it’s possibly a feeling shared by many teenage boys across the world… Again we wonder where the Alternative in Alternative Country is going to appear in the whisky-soaked, spit & sawdust croon of ‘My Life’s Work’ which all considered isn’t half bad.

I am beginning to dust off my leather chaps through ‘Death Final’ whereby our William’s voice is slightly more gravely, and there is some whacky reverb in ‘Hearts Arms’ that could be due to the canyons where BPB is camped out with his wagon, campfire and tin of beans. The slow tempo begins to get slightly tedious. The Lord answers my prayers with the tempo jumping up half a beat in, ‘You Don’t Love Me’, and with added hand claps, fiddles and trumpets it’s a nice break, y’all!

‘You Are Lost’ is one of those slow songs whereby it sounds like the singer is close to tears like some of the tear-jerker Trucker songs about dead lovers, wheelchair bound little boys and phantoms on the highways from the 1970’s…oh, you’ve not had the pleasure of these?! Now, ‘I Won’t Ask Again’ would be a great song if it was 1974, but alas it is not so whilst it’s simple and catchy (and yes, slow) it is as dated as leg-warmers, yo-yo’s and calculator watches. We hear how happy you can be by not belonging to anyone in, ‘I Don’t Belong To Anyone’ which is a fast paced Punk song, no, only joking, it’s believe it or not a slow ballad with slide, steel and acoustic guitars.

‘There Is Something That I Have To Say’ is a nice break as it’s slightly more Jack Johnson than Jack Jones and so is a more Folk/Rock song than the other rawhide-rodeo-renditions. Just when you thought that things will get better we have a square dance jig of, ‘I Am Goodbye’ which is up tempo, and actually a lot of fun, with fiddles and a kick drum …nice. Bongos are a nice addition to, ‘Without Work, You Have Nothing’ and the flutes and bongos of last song, ‘Afraid Ain’t Me’ sounds like someone has stuck one of those ambient rainforest CD’s in player, or that it’s a motivational CD whereby some smart-arse is going to preach to me and make me feel worse then when I started…

Okay, so we have a number of songs here about being alone, losing your job and being alone, lost love, loneliness, and general woes, specifically about how lonesome you can be. It’s hard to imagine that the teenagers of the world will be flocking from bus stops and park benches to purchase this with any gusto, and let’s face it, I’m old and it still doesn’t appeal to me. Whilst it is interesting that the Press Release harps on about how ambitious this album is, I can only wonder what sort of ambition the Bonnie-one has?

If you like slow Country songs then you’ll love this, if you like any other kind of genre then this is not the album for you. It’s well played musically and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy has a good voice, but other than my dad, I’m not sure who this is best aimed at.