Tuesday, August 1

Track Review: Bonnie "Prince" Billy

“Cursed Sleep”
from “The Letting Go”

It was clear enough from Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s “Sings Greatest Palace Music” that polished production does not do justice the work of Will Oldham. His has always been the voice of humanity, weak and flawed but nonetheless beautiful and meaningful. Because of this, it would seem the sweeping string arrangements, the pristine backup vocals of Dawn McCarthy, and the input of Björk-producer Valgeir Sigurdsson would muddy the emotion of “Cursed Sleep”.

The result, however, is not so predictable. What has in the past nearly destroyed a Bonnie “Prince” Billy record is now it’s strength, and for one reason: Oldham is still at the forefront, acoustic guitar strumming willfully away, his vocals gloomy and his lyrics among the best since those on “I See A Darkness”. The combination works because of the juxtaposition of the song’s various elements: McCarthy’s vocal perfection vs. Oldham’s tired southern drawl, epic string arrangements vs. simple acoustic guitar, the peaceful composure of the production vs. the restlessness of Oldham’s lyrics, etc.

The song itself alternates between quiet verses, swelling on several occasions into orchestral majesty accompanied by memorable lines like “cursed love is never ending / cursed eyes are never closing / cursed arms are never folding / cursed children never wising / and cursed me never despising”. The breathtaking of the climax of the song (about 3:40 through) is, I would venture to say, the best Bonnie “Prince” Billy moment in nearly seven years.

If this track is any indication as to the quality of “The Letting Go” then Oldham fans have something truly wonderful to look forward come September. “Cursed Sleep” is a new facet of Bonnie “Prince” Billy that could yield true treasures, a facet that counters Oldham’s morose ruminations with inspiring instrumentation and strikes a chord with a despairing world still hoping for something to revere.

Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Cursed Sleep [Music Video]

- Dominick Duhamel -

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