One of the first highlights of 2009.
Daryl Easlea 2009-03-12
Following hard on the heels of 2008's Lie Down In The Light, Beware is Will Oldham's alter-ego Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's eighth solo album. It is – unsurprisingly – an organic work of great depth and texture. The melody and sense of acute longing that has infused Oldham's work since his earliest days with Palace is very much present and correct. Beware is an intimate album, full of strong emotion and underlying hope.
Oldham has been reported recently as being obsessed by late-period Elvis Presley. The King's spirit seems to drift across Beware. It is found in the depth and hopelessness of songs such as I Won't Ask Again or the drama and flurry of Heart's Arms.
Occasionally, Oldham’s work can be somewhat remote; as he is playing a character, you feel sometimes as if you are there to admire his art rather than fully give yourself over to it. Well, Beware has added accessibility and warmth, given that is so frequently gloomy.
The swelling fiddles and female chorus of opener Beware Your Only Friend are complemented by its follow-up You Can't Hurt Me Now, which sounds as if it is an unearthed country standard, complete with gospel flourishes topped off with some Roxy-style sax. For contrast, You Don't Love Me is playful and tongue-in-cheek.
Beware is an ambitious record, with a list of special guests such as ex-Mekon Jon Langford and one time Wilco multi-instrumentalist Leroy Bach supporting Oldham. It is also one of the first highlights of 2009. For those unsure of what genres such as alt.country or Americana entails, this is a marvellous place to start.