Throughout his career, Will Oldham has sought intimacy. The early Palace monikers (Palace Brothers, Palace Music, etc) gave off the idea of a man walking the grand hall of American song alone, digging always deeper into that solitude to perhaps find something cosmic hiding in the marrow of his lonely, fragile bones. As Bonnie “Prince” Billy, he blossomed as the randy fop, the surfer guru, the troubadour with a command of any music he tries, be it Crazy Horse-style ragged glory, slick Nashville country, or quiet gatherings of one or two compatriots. He’s performed with as many as six guitarists in his stage band, and a few years ago opened Björk’s extravaganza at the Hollywood Bowl alone onstage strumming an autoharp. What ever curious means he employs, the end result is the bared soul of one of our most gifted and mercurial songwriters.
His latest incarnation is Bonnie “Prince” Billy and the Cairo Gang, that gang consisting solely of Emmet Kelly. Their new album The Wonder Show of the World bears a resemblance to Superwolf, his stunning 2005 duo record with Matt Sweeney, as well as the sunset glow of Laurel Canyon circa 1974. Oldham is in as fine a voice as ever; his once hoarse rasp is buffed into a rich, candlelit glow. He and his Gang sing and play in such close harmony that His Majesty requested the intimate confines of Preservation Hall so that their soft blows can be felt full on the body of those in attendance. Seating is very limited, so reservations are recommended.
Bonnie “Prince” Billy and the Cairo Gang and Hurray for the Riff Raff play Preservation Hall on April 6 at 11 p.m.