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Bonnie "Prince" Billy

Beware – 2009 (Drag City)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Bonnie "Prince" Billy

A Bonnie Prince Billy album title like "Beware" would have been especially appropriate back when Johnny Cash covered the artist's I See A Darkness on his "American III: Solitary Man" album. That's because Will Oldham, as he is more commonly known, is not always easy on the ears when performing his own songs. But Beware may contain the smoothest singing Oldham has ever put to CD.

Songs on this disc bring to mind Bob Dylan's "Blood on the Tracks," albeit without all the vitriol and revenge. He even reveals a sense of humor (who knew?) on one titled You Don't Love Me, where he admits, "You say my kiss rates a six on a scale from one to ten." It's not love, as Merle Haggard once sang, but it's not bad. The woman in question might not love him, but hey, love isn't everything. In addition to its country-rock base, one also hears trumpet, saxophone and flute here and there, and sometimes Oldham's female backing vocalists give this music a Emmylou Harris/Gram Parsons quality. Oldham is not a great singer, but with the full-bodied instrumental backing, poor singing is no real detriment. Beware of being pleasantly surprised.