Trying to find reason or motive in Will Oldham's always odd career trajectory is a fool's errand. From the very beginning, Oldham has befuddled his critics and fans alike with strange decisions that fall short of publicity stunts but stir the pot of controversy all the same, beginning with seemingly endless changes in how he billed his spare, folky music (Palace, Palace Brothers, Will Oldham, and eventually the semi-stable Bonnie "Prince" Billy) and following with oddly conceptualized releases, videos, appearances, disappearances, and other general weirdness. With Now Here's My Plan, an EP that serves as a companion piece to a book of conversations between Oldham and experimental musician Alan Licht, Oldham revisits six of his older tunes, in some cases taking them into previously unfathomable places. This isn't an altogether new idea for Oldham. In 2004 the prolific songwriter released Bonnie "Prince" Billy Sings Greatest Palace Music, a collection of decidedly country & western reworkings of his sometimes originally dirgey earlier material. Now Here's My Plan is similar, but not quite. The EP gathers the same band that backed Oldham on his 2011 Wolfroy Goes to Town album and subsequent live dates, and sets them in the den of Steve Albini's vividly roomy production. Some songs lean into even more gentle spaces than their original incarnations, as on the droning "Three Questions." Most remarkable, though, are the more rowdy, drunken honky-tonking renditions of songs like "I Don't Belong to Anyone" and the once-heartbreaking "I See a Darkness." The jubilant feel, tinkling piano, and almost giddy gallop of the versions here completely recontextualize the songs, especially "I See a Darkness," which called all bets on just how bleak an album could feel on Oldham's 1999 offering of the same name. Taken solely as a collection of songs, the EP is as enjoyable and confusing as much of Oldham's work, and will annoy as many listeners as it delights with its confounding takes on old material. Whether Oldham intends irreverence for, mockery of, or continuing expansion of his songs we will never know.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas