First things first, I’m a total novice when it comes the music of Will Oldham (Palace Music, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, et all.) so don’t expect a thorough diagnosis of the new Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy record, Singer’s Grave a Sea of Tongues in relation to earlier works. I’ll save that for a more astute review. I will simply say that I really enjoy listening to this record.
Singer’s Grave a Sea of Tongues is understated but catchy as hell. The full-band arrangements include pedal steel, fiddle, banjo and others. The McCrary Sisters provide backing vocals on many of the songs. In doing a little research I learned that many of these songs had been previously released but not in these forms. News to me. “So Far and Here We Are” has a bit of a pulse to it, drum beats and electric guitars leading the way.
Weary darkness seems to loom over these songs and Oldham’s wispy vocals accentuate the mood, yet I find Singer’s Grave a Sea of Tongues to be a calming record, one that relaxes and puts me at ease. There is a dark-gospel feel on many songs, most notably on “Old Match,” and it’s that vibe that really draws me in.
The primary reason I wanted to write up this review is to encourage folks that might have ignored previous Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy releases to stop and check this one out. That’s the spot I was in but now I’m excited to go back and dig in to the back catalog.