Bonnie “Prince” Billy is back with his fourth studio album, which is comprised of covers from a group that he and his brothers started earlier in their careers, fittingly called the Palace Brothers. Bonnie “Prince” Billy, a.k.a. Will Oldham, has never sounded as poppy as he does on this record, which makes a sharp contrast from the original material the newer album bases itself on.
What this album holds that the previous recordings of these songs do not is that it is more reminiscent of country music. The original recordings of these songs are minimalist in production, with the best example being the song “I Am a Cinematographer.” The original version has Will Oldham’s younger voice cracking over a basic acoustic guitar riff, conveying a truly raw, melancholy. The newer version does away with all the sadness seeping out of Oldham’s vocal chords so that now we’ve got ourselves a very swingy bebop version. This doesn’t quite convey the original feeling found in the first recording.
That’s not to say that Greatest Palace Music is horrible, but it’s for a different audience than the original recordings were intended for. This album would probably find appeal more to people who revel in early ’80s pop country rather than those who enjoy the lo-fi sound of alternative country folk music. So, it really comes down to the listener when figuring out what category the band snugly fits into.
[Jesse Hoy moonlights as a small, skateboarding turtle made out of sock with buttons for eyes.]