Bonnie "Prince" Billy

Lay & Love

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A standout track from 2006's excellent Letting Go, "Lay and Love" is a heart-on-sleeve love song of extraordinarily accessible vintage. "When you walk in, things go luminous, it makes me lay here and love you," Bonnie "Prince" Billy (aka Will Oldham) sings, before twisting the knife in the third verse. "You have mistrust running through you, your smile is hiding something hurtful," he adds, sliding into typically complex Oldham territory and escaping permanent enshrinement on a generation of indie rock Valentine's Day mixes. Oldham uses the occasion of a single to add a pair of Bob Dylan songs, "Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)" and "Going to Acapulco." And they're both total winners. As a prolific songwriter whose work can often be reduced to dude-singing-with-guitar, Will Oldham's canon of covers is unsurprisingly massive. But while his song choices span a fairly encyclopedic range -- from Scottish folksinger June Tabor to R&B braggadocio supreme R. Kelly -- it's always surprising to find him in baby boomer territory. It's not that unheard of, either, though (see "Wouldn't It Be Nice," his contribution to Do It Again: A Tribute to Pet Sounds, or his version of the Grateful Dead's "Brokedown Palace" on his Pebbles & Ripples EP), and it's usually just as lovely as everything else he does. And, given the familiar nature of the covers, perhaps also less elusive. Oldham's choices here, a lesser-known tune from 1967's Basement Tapes and a deep cut from Dylan's 1978's move into slickness, Street Legal, are respectably new territory for Dylan covers, conjoined by their south-of-the-border vibes. (A vibe that Dylan himself reentered with 2009's Together Through Life, proof that maybe Oldham gets Dylan pretty well.) Oldham adds a sly half-spoken intro to "Goin' to Acapulco": "Come over here... you know I loves you, mmhmm, in fact, I even wrote a song for you..." before launching into a clarinet-heavy Dixieland arrangement that's a perfect springboard for his cosmic bemusement. (It's also a nice complement to Jim James and Calexico's almost exactly contemporaneous and similarly brass-oriented version on the 2007 I'm Not There soundtrack.) For "Señor," a longtime Jerry Garcia staple, Oldham digs into the narrative, turning it into a spare solo arrangement that Dylan was unable to realize in 1978. Magnificent.

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