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Bonnie "Prince" Billy

Sings Greatest Palace Music – 2004 (Drag City)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Bonnie "Prince" Billy

Here's hoping that old saw about music substituting for therapy is spot on. If it's not, Will Oldham is looking at some steep psych bills to reassemble his creative personalities. After years of making music that nibbles at the fringes of country music in all its varied sonic glories under an equally arrayed group of banners (Palace Brothers, Palace Music, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, his own name), Oldham has taken the next logical step by using his Bonnie "Prince" Billy persona to "cover" the Palace catalog on his latest BPB album.

And who better to do it? With a tremulous voice that sounds like a cross between a tipsy Lyle Lovett and a country-stoked Eddie Vedder, a crack band featuring Hargus Robbins on piano and Stuart Duncan on fiddle and mandolin, and a star-studded guest list including Andrew Bird, Tony Crow and Bobby Bare Jr., Oldham/Billy finds the true, pure country heart of a number of Palace classics, particularly the pedal steel/piano beauty of "The Brute Choir," the swinging take on "I Send My Love to You," and the devastating "You Will Miss Me When I Burn."

How this is received by the Palace faithful is less relevant than how successfully Oldham has translated his own work into a relatively new setting. And how the Palace collective responds will give the psychiatric community an idea of what they're up against here.