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CD Review: Bonnie Prince Billy

Lie Down in the Light

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The Deal: Bonnie Prince Billy turns in (mostly) contented effort.

The Good: Will Oldham's woodsy warble and fractured folk-twang has always sounded timeless, his career measured as much by the changes in his various incarnations (Palace, Palace Songs, Palace Brothers, Palace Music, and Bonnie Prince Billy) as by any radical stylistic alterations. So Lie Down in the Light does what an Oldham record does, offering delicate shifts in mood that add up to something substantially new. Eschewing the chamber orchestrations of 2006's more downbeat The Letting Go, these 12 songs hum and glow with the conviviality of a family and friends' campfire, the organic "good earthly music" of opener "Easy Does It" permeating these often eco-friendly cuts. Emmett Kelly's complementary guitar runs highlight many cuts, as do judiciously placed fiddle sections, pedal steel moments and a couple of curveballs like organ and clarinet. But it's Oldham's narratives, infused with the maturity of acceptance and in-the-moment-joy, which buoy these songs, leading some reviewers to call Lie Down the anti-I See a Darkness, Oldham's somber 1999 masterpiece. That Oldham may have seen the darkness, but this one, a decade wiser, chooses to focus on the light, for as he sings on "For Every Field There's a Mole," "For every man who will last/There's nothing he can't get past."

The Bad: Compared to recent BPB female foils like Dawn McCarthy (Faun Fables) and Scout Niblett, Ashley Webb is less effective – not bad, but her cracked warble is too similar to Oldham's, and the best songs on Lie Down are those without her.

The Verdict: Gets better with each listen.

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