Bonnie Prince Billy and the Picket Line - Funtown Comedown FLAC 24bit 96kHz

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Artists: Bonnie "Prince" Billy, The Picket Line
Release: Funtown Comedown
Discogs: 2053817
Released: 2009-12-15
Label: Sea Note
Catalog#: SN17
Format: Vinyl, FLAC / 24bit Lossless
Country: US
Style: Folk, World, & Country, Rock, Country, Indie Rock, Folk


A1. Ohio River Boat Song
A2. May It Always Be
A3. Hemlocks And Primroses
A4. The Glory Goes / Wolf Among Wolves
A5. We All Us Three Will Ride
B1. Easy Does It
B2. Lay And Love
B3. Rider
B4. Rambling Fever
B5. You Want That Picture
B6. Idle Hands Are The Devil's Playthings

Is Will Oldham having a good laugh at our expense? Does he cackle to himself when critics note every name change or parse every reference to darkness and light? For someone who maintains a steady stream of releases, Oldham remains elusive, impossible to pin down. Take his latest, a live album titled Funtown Comedown, released digitally and on vinyl with little fanfare during the final days of 2009. As the story goes, he recorded it in the "metaphysical community" of Funtown, which lies just outside the Louisville of the mind. One presumes the hamlet appears in the mist annually and exists solely to host Oldham's shows.

If Oldham didn't make good music, we might laugh right back at him. But for nearly 20 years, he has proved not only prolific but indefatigable, always ready with a quick hook and a dark thought on mortality and music. Funtown Comedown pulls from every corner of his rich catalog, spanning his first EP (opener "Ohio River Boat Song") through his recent peaks ("The Glory Goes", from 2008's Lie Down in the Light). This being an Oldham release, these aren't simply run-throughs of familiar songs. He studiously avoids redundancy by constantly reinterpreting and reinventing his songs. Here, he resets them in a string-band context, courtesy of the Picket Line.

Louisville's the Picket Line accompany him with a ramshackle sound and a hootenanny dynamic that fit his ramblin' songs nicely. The spry performances make some of the studio versions sound dour by comparison, as the musicians punctuate the songs with shouts and hollers. They actually howl like junkyard curs on "Wolf Among Wolves", and whoop it up on the clap-along closer "Idle Hands Are the Devil's Playthings". Cheyenne Mize plays Loretta Lynn to Oldham's Conway Twitty, harmonizing sweetly on "We All Us Three Will Ride" and "You Want That Picture". Oldham has duetted with so many female singers over the years, from Scout Niblett to former Frente! frontwoman Angie Hart, but Mize makes a dashing foil for him, with a wry, crystalline tone to counter his grainier, hangdog voice. (They released an under-everybody's-radar EP last year on Karate Body Records.)

The Picket Line kick up the dust on the first set, delivering a stormy take on Ralph Stanley's "Hemlocks and Primroses" complete with raucous call and response, but they quiet down a bit on the second set. Cleetus Redundementia's bass makes a comfy bed for Oldham and Mize's vocals on the soft, subtly sinister "Lay and Love", and Pork Chop's "outta-tune banjo" snakes through the ruminative "Rider" (these are the names listed on their MySpace, so don't blame me). As with most of the current crop of string bands, there's a strong Appalachian feel to these new interpretations, as if the musicians have modeled themselves after the Carter Family. But they shoot these songs full of classic Nashville country flourishes and Kentucky bluegrass filigrees, and their Bakersfield licks light up their cover of Merle Haggard's "Rambling Fever" and "May It Always Be" like fireworks. This is Oldham's flip-side America, where regional distinctions and variations compress into one sound. His idiosyncratic brand of traditional music, wherever he makes it and under whichever guise, has always sounded both otherworldly and earthy, and Funtown Comedown demonstrates how that contradiction energizes his music and enlivens a genre that too often gets bogged down in reverence and gravity.

ΓÇö Stephen M. Deusner, January 14, 2010		
Bonnie Prince Billy and the Picket Line - Funtown Comedown FLAC 24bit 96kHz/01 Ohio River Boat Song.flac 34.968 MB
Bonnie Prince Billy and the Picket Line - Funtown Comedown FLAC 24bit 96kHz/02 May It Always Be.flac 45.851 MB
Bonnie Prince Billy and the Picket Line - Funtown Comedown FLAC 24bit 96kHz/03 Hemlocks and Primroses.flac 34.258 MB
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