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Bonnie Prince Billy | Ease Down The Road (Domino)
Compulsive name-changer Will Oldham returns for his second album under the Bonnie Prince Billy moniker and while there are surface similarities with 1999's I See A Darkness, Ease Down The Road is a beast of an altogether different nature. On his last album, Oldham explored the nature of death and the way it affects life. On Ease Down The Road it is love and lust that come under his scrutiny; this is his bump 'n' grind album, if you will. Oldham taking on the role of BPB taking on the role of the rakish Victorian seducer who admits "well, it usually isn't my thing to do another's bride" and then goes ahead and does it anyway. The twelve songs on offer skirt the parameters of romantic love from the a cappella hymn of Careless Love to the Leonard Cohen seduction poetry of After I Made Love To You. The lyrics are far more straightforward than on previous albums, trading elliptical baroque poetry for innuendo and graphic description of amorous acts. The music is coated in a glossy sheen of production and layered backing vocals, befitting the gentle pastoral mood, but lacking the jagged nooks and dark crannies of his best work. Sheep, which manages to encapsulate Orphic myth, blood sacrifice and Greek Tragedy over a strummed guitar line that's like a nervous itch you can't reach, is the only track that's really compelling, raising the usual questions of whether what's good for life is bad for art. On his last album, Oldham sang of hoping to someday 'find peace in our lives' - it seems that he has for the moment, the cover shot of a country road fading into the horizon, an apt metaphor for this charming but ultimately disappointing addition to Oldham's considerable oeuvre.
CWAS #7 - Spring 2001