Bonnie "Prince" Billy

Ease Down the Road

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Will Oldham has long confused record buyers with his constantly changing monikers. Though the persona attached has remained fairly consistent, his releases under Bonnie "Prince" Billy brought a subtle but undeniable shift. Following the cracked, wayward style he adopted on 1997s Joya, Oldham settled on the steady understated "Bonnie" voice of I See a Darkness. The lyrics became more direct and the narrator's strange mythology deepened. If that album embraced its subject as a necessary, even beautiful aspect of life, Ease Down the Road finds the singer comfortable with this new-found acceptance. Backing Oldham is a cast of new and old faces who deliver their parts with an unusually soft, smooth touch. The singer eases into this setting, singing of his estranged upbringing, plans to construct his own kingdom (through questionable means), and love. The latter is Oldham's biggest preoccupation, finding its way into nearly every song, like the album's subplot. Though unable to choose between the love of one woman and the ability to be with whomever will suit his needs, the narrator is largely unconcerned with the conflict. Ease Down the Road features some of his most direct dealings with the subject on "May It Always Be" and "After I Made Love to You." As the album develops, this material is balanced with the more characteristic musings of "The Lion Lair," "Sheep," and "Grand Dark Feeling of Emptiness": songs that trace the same fictional histories found on I See a Darkness. The end result is the natural and necessary expansion of a unique songwriting voice. Seeming more confident than ever, Oldham's Ease Down the Road is a wonderful addition to a catalog that should earn him a place among the finest songwriters of his age, or any age.

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