“Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy is the indie rock mainstay Will Oldham, whose hushed, country-influenced songs never sound precious or small; on the contrary, they often achieve an eerie grandeur that not even he seems to understand fully.” —New York Times
Will Oldham, the enigmatic and celebrated singer-songwriter also known as Bonnie “Prince” Billy, gives a rare live performance at 8 and 10:30 pm Thursday, March 19, in the Walker Art Center’s William and Nadine McGuire Theater. Oldham’s atmospheric art-folk is borne of an Appalachian netherworld finding its glimmer and glow through gentle guitars, lush harmonies, shimmering folktronics, and elegies that slide between spare and sly, lovely and lonely, beautiful and bucolic. Pillars and Tongues opens the 8 pm performance; Begushkin opens the 10:30 pm performance. Limited seats still available.
For most of the 1990s, the prolific and fiercely creative Oldham was the mastermind of Palace Music, a shambling, country-tinged indie rock group that recorded under a variety of names. The only constant in Palace was Oldham, and he would often record as a solo artist under the Palace name. That fact made his decision to retire the Palace name in 1997 somewhat baffling, since for all intents and purposes, he was the band. Nevertheless, Joya, Oldham’s first album as a solo artist, was slightly different than Palace, boasting a slightly darker and somber tone. Like all the Palace records, Joya was released on Drag City to positive critical notices and a cult following. Although the subsequent I See a Darkness was attributed to Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Oldham continued using his given name for releases, including Ode Music and Guarapero: Lost Blues 2. The second Bonnie “Prince” Billy album, Ease Down the Road, arrived in early 2001, featuring collaborators David Pajo, Catherine Irwin, Mike Fellows, and Harmony Korine. He has released several more releases under the Bonnie “Prince” Billy moniker including Lie Down in the Light (2008) and is scheduled to release Beware in the spring of 2009.
Oldham began an acting career at the age of 17, when he portrayed a teen preacher in John Sayles’ film about an Appalachian mining community, Matewan (1987). He moved to Hollywood to pursue acting, and was well received, landing roles in several films, but became disillusioned with the film industry and quit in 1989. He has since had several minor roles in independent films, such as Julien Donkey-Boy (1999), Junebug (2005), and The Guatemalan Handshake (2006). Oldham took a lead role in Old Joy, which was featured at SXSW XX and opened at New York’s Film Forum. He played the role of a preacher in the Horse Apples special of Wondershowzen in series two of the show.
Pillars and Tongues
Pillars and Tongues is a Chicago-based trio whose multilayered and spontaneously composed chamber music results in a haunting minimalism. Their hushed, elongated pieces are absent of traditional beginnings and endings, allowing the listener to focus on the beautiful ambiance and textured ebb and flow of each passage.
Begushkin is Brooklyn’s swinging sultan, multi-instrumentalist, and masterful songwriter Dan Smith and a variety of collaborators. Smith’s talent for physical, evocative imagery, and through his band’s tidy, thoughtful arrangements, the music bounces from folk to gypsy and into the netherworlds in between.
Tickets to Bonnie “Prince” Billy are $25 ($21 Walker members) and are available at walkerart.org/tickets or by calling 612.375.7600.