2012 - 2014, STREAMING NOW

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy | 13/08/18

Image: Bonnie 2014

Bonnie "Prince" Billy - The B-Sides For Time To Be Clear - Streaming Now

Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Now Here's My Plan - Streaming Now

Bonnie "Prince" Billy and Dawn McCarthy - Christmas Eve Can Kill You - Streaming Now

More adventures for what we may call the Babblers Band (Ben Boye, Van Campbell, Emmett Kelly, Danny Kiely, Will Oldham and Angel Olsen), under the auspices of BonniePrince’ Billy.  There were two songs from the WOLFROY GOES TO TOWN batch of constructed jammers for which there was neither time nor psychological space to complete during the WOLFROY sessions.  However, everybody knew how to play the songs and wanted to track them, so Oldham booked time at David Ferguson’s Butcher Shoppe studio in Nashville, and “Whipped” and “Out of Mind” were tracked and released as a 7”.  Both sides were called B-sides, the A-side being a virtual release of WOLFROY’sTime to be Clear”.  Fergie knocked the session out of the park, as continues to be his style to this very day.  The artwork for the single was an extension of Sammy Harkham’s work for the WOLFROY cover.

Book publishers Faber & Faber were publishing a book-length interview with Oldham and asked for some sort of musical release to help commemorate and promote the book.  Oldham picked six songs from various Bonny/Palace records and the Babbler band incorporated all six into their live repertoire, playing the songs every night on tour in the lead-up to a recording session with Steve Albini at his Electrical Audio Recording studio in Chicago.  The songs were then recorded live-in-the-studio.  The title for the resulting EP, “Now Here’s My Plan”, came from a famous Shel Silverstein cartoon.  Ben Berman conceived of a new chapter in the life and work of Zombie Bonny for his memorable video clip for the revamped “I See a Darkness”, filmed in Glasgow, Scotland, where a mini-Babblers (Boye, Kelly, Oldham/Olsen) were performing.  The cover art for the EP was a leather ‘painting’, rendered by Sue Schofield, of a meteor hurtling our way.  The font and layout for the EP reminds us that it is the next entry in the Bonny live series, after SUMMER IN THE SOUTHEAST, WILDING IN THE WEST, FUNTOWN COMEDOWN, and IS IT THE SEA?

Oldham went into the studio again with Dawn McCarthy, this time to pay collaborative tribute to some of the works of the Everly Brothers.  More on that next week, but for now we’ll speak briefly about the advance holiday single, “Christmas Eve Can Kill You”.  In the USA the b-side of the single was “Walking the Dog”, in Europe it was “Lovey Kravezit”.  The single and the subsequent full-length record was recorded by David Ferguson at the Butcher Shoppe in Nashville, TN.  Magnus Johnstone did the cover artwork for the 7”.  Lara Miranda made a beautiful video clip for the song.

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Dawn McCarthy & Bonnie "Prince" Billy - What The Brothers Sang - Streaming Now

When Dawn McCarthy and Will Oldham first met face-to-face, they were on the road together.  They learned and sang the Everly Brothers classic “So Sad (to Watch Good Love Go Bad)”.  Years later, McCarthy suggested to Oldham that they sing some more Everly jams together, and Oldham was immediately ready with an arsenal of potential works for them to embrace.  He sent a long list to Dawn, and she picked and choosed from them, and together they came up with the playlist for WHAT THE BROTHERS SANG.  Their principal partners in crime were Emmett Kelly, with his golden voice and hands of silver, and David Ferguson, with his platinum ear and endless list of badass pickers to call upon to make music into MUSIC. Add to that a wild and wide variety of friends and colleagues who paraded in and laid down their prooves-of-chops on tape and you have a pretty mighty record. 

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The Marquis De Tren & Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Solemns - Streaming Now

GET ON JOLLY had been a sleeper hit, a fan favorite, so it wasn’t too much of a challenge to get the Marquis de Tren and Bonny Billy back together for this biblical EP.  A mini-Bonny Babblers ensemble (Van Campbell, Emmett Kelly, Angel Olsen, and Will Oldham) traveled to Australia to play some shows, and in Melbourne they rendezvoused with Mick Turner and Jim White to record SOLEMNS, three songs with music built by Turner and words culled from the Christian Bible’s book of Psalms.

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Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Singer's Grave A Sea of Tongues - Streaming Now

Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Quail and Dumplings - Streaming Now

Bonnie "Prince" Billy - New Black Rich (Tusks) - Streaming Now

Strange things were happening in the world of the music business.  The music itself was still alive, but the bodies formerly inhabited by that music were being rapidly abandoned.  The music maybe was getting big-headed, thinking it could survive without a real host.  Regardless, it was getting eerily hostile.  Making new music for this environment was a challenge for Will Oldham, who had too much invested in the making of music to just let it run free in this lawless climate.  So Oldham continued to actively combine the making of new music with ‘old’.  There had been the Babblers shows and the Everly-honoring record and tours with Dawn McCarthy.  Now, for a new Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy record of original songs, Oldham turned back the clock a few years, to 2011, and imagined that he had not made a record called WOLFROY GOES TO TOWN out of a certain cluster of assembled songs.  The songs were there, but time’s road was split and here Oldham took a different fork.  He left behind the two foreign-culture jams, “New Tibet” and “Cows”, and picked up the ostracized “Whipped” and “Out of Mind” along with a new Bryan Rich composition, “New Black Rich (Tusks)”, and built an alternate-reality record called SINGER’S GRAVE A SEA OF TONGUES.  The title was a paraphrase of one of the song titles from the record, “Sailor’s Grave a Sea of Sheep”, which was itself a paraphrase of the song “Black Captain”, Rashomon-ing the story for this new context.  Oldham asked Emmett Kelly if he was down for making a new record, Kelly said “oui, oui”, and Oldham sent Kelly a CD of demos featuring all of the songs to be recorded.  Oldham also sent a letter to the rest of the Babbler band (Danny Kiely, Ben Boye, Van Campbell, and Angel Olsen) as well as to Shahzad Ismaily explaining that this new record was in no way intended to be a slight on the WOLFROY achievement, rather perhaps a new way of shining a new light on that record and on recorded efforts in general.  The past was not past, it is a crucial part of the present and future.  Mark Nevers had asked Oldham to come make a new record, and Oldham brought SINGER’S GRAVE to the Beech House table.  Nevers met the challenge with fierce enthusiasm.  He brought in the McCrary sisters and Caroline Peyton to sing, Billy Contreras to fiddle, and the stalwart Tony Crow to play pianos and keys.

Claudia Crobatia made a video for “New Black Rich (Tusks)”, shot outside of Amsterdam and starring Oldham and KellyBen Berman revisited “Quail and Dumplings”, setting the new piece at a water park and bringing back Nina Nastasia and Kennan Gudjonsson as well as, of course, Zombie Bonny.  TV commercials were made for the record attempting to explain the phenomena of the parallel-reality recording.  Sammy Harkham once again, as he did on WOLFROY, executed the cover art.  The photo on the back cover (taken by Oscar Parsons) features Oldham on the stage of Clear Lake, Iowa’s legendary Surf Ballroom, the site of Buddy Holly’s final performance.