Thursday, May 29, 2008

Some Thoughts on Will Oldham, Art and Friendship

My friend Ezio is an artist. Actually, he is about the most artistic person I know. Painting, music, film. . . He does it all and even makes it look easy. Me? I can muddle about with words when the mood strikes me, but that's about it. I mean, I can draw a straight line. . . if you don't mind a turn or three.
Here is an example of his art:

And another:

He is also a bit of a musical obsessive. When he finds an artist he likes, he will go to almost ridiculous lengths to find every recording by said artist. Me? While music is a huge part of my life, I reserve that level of obsessive compulsiveness for my book collection. This results in a bit of a cultural exchange. While I send him baseball novels (baseball is another of his passions) like Roth's The Great American Novel or Coover's The Universal Baseball Association. . . , he introduces me to musicians I might have missed.

One of these is Will Oldham. Truth be told, when I first heard him, I wasn't impressed. It just seemed like more sad bastard music, slow and dirgelike. Then I listened to it again and it was still sad bastard music but it was kind of, sort of, ok. Then I bought a disc on a whim and played it again. And again. And you get the picture. I'm not going to say I'm the world's biggest Will Oldham fan - that honour is reserved for folks like Ezio - but I like his stuff a lot.

So, when I heard that he had a new album coming out - under his usual Bonnie "Prince" Billy moniker - I knew I had to pick it up. My first listen to Lie Down in the Light was on the subway to work yesterday. I was mildly pleased until I hit track three - So Everyone. It's this shambling duet that just killed me. That's when it opened up to me. This is a great album. It's one of those albums that become the soundtrack of your life, if only for a week or two, and I recommend it to everyone.

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