Album Review

Bonnie "Prince" Billy - The Letting Go

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - The Letting Go

The little prince takes on the wonders of true love in The Letting Go, which means that his eerie, atmospheric lamentations sound...well, not much less lamenting than usual, just with a few more spots where the sun bursts through the fog. Bonnie "Prince" Billy has been many things under many names, but here he's just a "hard-hearted honeypot, a hungry shepherd longing to be born for you." Awww! The Letting Go is a welcome left turn for Billy, one of the myriad aliases of the prolific and hirsute Will Oldham. His vocals barely step out from behind the curtain of his mist-covered, dusky soundscapes -- all droning guitar and sneaky melody with occasional visits by a string section, given lovely counterpoint throughout by Faun Fables vocalist Dawn McCarthy. It's hard not to be moved by Oldham's raw fragility. "Hey little bird, thank you for not letting go of me, when I let go of you," he sings on the title track. "Big Friday" is a letter of plaintive gorgeousness, almost as pretty as "Lay And Love", which applies a whisper of electronic loopery to his swooning: "When you walk in, things go luminous." This is not to say The Letting Go is all fragile heart-on-sleeveness. "Strange Form Of Life" works up a near-groove, and "Cold & Wet" and the dissonant "The Seedling" are both growly blues. But the sweeping "Cursed Sleep" best illustrates the record's restful themes -- Oldham spends a lot of time sleeping and laying down, more or less gushing about a tantalizingly close and peaceful love: "This is what it should be, to have such a woman with me." Though his trembling voice seems at least to hint at the troubles that eventually grow attached to such things, there's a disarmingly endearing sense that he's found great sweetness in it all.