Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Mindlessness 7″

R-6567104-1422379897-3606.jpegAlt-Country b/w Stripped Down Folk

Drag City Records – January 27th, 2015

My introduction to Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy was more or less recent, at least in the context of Will Oldham’s twenty-two year career. I was moved by the simplicity and honesty found on his self-titled album, released in mid-2013, which caused me to do a lot of catching up with his music which preceded it. His most recent issue, “Mindlessness,” was issued in late-January this year, and features a cut from his 2014 album Singers Grave – A Sea of Tongues, as well as a new song, “Blindlessness,” for its B-side.

The single, “Mindlessness,” is a poppy alt-country track, adorned with banjo, mandolin, and gospel choir – it has a similar sound to many of the tracks found on his 2009 release, Beware. Throughout the song, Oldham fills his verses with an array of existential questions – “What was I saying / where do I stand?” and “If I pretend to be sane, will I become so?” – his chorus responds, “Nobody answers or will look me in my eye / you are out my mind, and now so am I.” Left without the answers he was looking for, the chorus is repeated, still, and more cheerfully with each succession – if Oldham can live without these answers, surely the listener can, too.

Having first been exposed to Bonnie “Prince” Billy as a stripped-down, guitar and voice musician, “Blindlessness” was more familiar sounding to me. Here, Oldham is accompanied by his acoustic guitar, electric bass, layers of his own voice, and the sporadic barking of a small dog. This song is sparsely textured, especially in juxtaposition to the music found on the other side of the single – much like in his self-titled record, rather than strumming, he simply imitates his vocal melodies with notes on his guitar. For all the joyfulness of “Mindlessness,” this track is quite a bit more somber, and thoroughly more personal and intimate. You can hear the song for yourself, and watch the official video from Drag City below:

Both songs here are really beautiful tracks, and are certainly worth a listen – you can find the 7″, as well as digital downloads of the release on Drag City’s website.

Ben Southworth – March 8th, 2015 – Maxwell and Hagerman

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