1999 - 2001, STREAMING NOW

14/05/18

Image: Bonnie 2001

The Marquis de Tren & Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Get On Jolly - Streaming Now

GUARAPERO session success notwithstanding, Will Oldham’s connections with the Dirty Three’s Mick Turner and Jim White continued to strengthen.  All three participated in the European tour by the Boxhead Ensemble in support of the documentary film DUTCH HARBOR.  Later, Turner sent Oldham some recordings he’d been working on.  These were solo recordings done on guitar and organ, using loops in an organic fashion still pretty much unique to Mick Turner.  The pieces were meditative, organic, and inspiring.  Turner asked Oldham if there was anything he could contribute to the pieces.  Oldham took the challenge, even as he was daunted by the task of potentially marring these transcendent musical creations.  Eventually, Oldham thought it best to triangulate, finding a third, passive, collaborator in the great Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore.  Using Tagore’s GITANJALI collection of poems and meditative mini-stories as a lyric basis, Oldham built lyrics and melodies to complement what Turner had brought to the table.  Oldham’s voice parts were recorded by Paul Oldham at Rove Studios in Shelbyville, KY, and the results were became the EP GET ON JOLLY, credited to the Marquis de Tren (Mick Turner) and Bonny Billy.   Bonny and the Anomoanon were still operating outside of the Drag City system (though still within the Domino system for Europe), so the artwork was laid out by Louisvillian-cum-Baltimoron Jeremy Devine and featured a painting by Turner. A tour was undertaken and Jim White (drums) and Paul Oldham (bass) joined Oldham and Turner.  A couple of new pieces were created to flesh out the set; all eight pieces were recorded live in the studio in Baltimore and released as a CD-only called GETTHEFUCKONJOLLYTurner and White, around this same time, began recording and performing as the Tren Brothers

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Guarapero - Will Oldham - Streaming Now

Continuing in the Colonel Parker model, the powers that bleat saw fit to collect a patchwork of Palace Musics and Will Oldham songs for a follow-up to LOST BLUES AND OTHER SONGS.  Mostly it was an act of gentle rebellion against the failure of the GUARAPERO session in Cotati, California, which cost a lot of effort and money.  There were great performances recorded at that session, two of which, “Call Me a Liar” and “The Sugarcane Juice Drinker” are collected on this LOST BLUES 2/GUARAPERO assemblage.  Will Oldham rescued the title from the unreleased record, guarapero being a loose translation of the phrase “sugarcane juice drinker”.  It is b-sides and unreleased songs collected here, including “O Lord Are You in Need” from a Peel session; “Big Balls”, inspired by the AC/DC jam of the same name and commissioned by the label Skin Graft for a series of AC/DC tribute singles.  “The Risen Lord” and “Boy, Have You Cum” are recordings of arrangements built for a US tour with the band Run On.  There was a single copy of a 7” of these two songs preseed and given to Steve Albini.  “Gezundheit” is an early 4-track recording referencing early Oldham hero Phil Ochs.  “Let the Wires Ring” is a handheld-cassette-player recording of a demo intended for the Palace Brothers record THERE IS NO-ONE WHAT WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU.  Also featured in a hidden track on the CD (you need to skip backwards from the beginning of the disc to hear it, a mechanism which confused many who listened to CDs on their PCs), “Apocalypse, No” with productions and arrangements by Jim O’Rourke and Sean O’Hagan.  The front cover was a collage by Dianne Bellino, the back a photo by Cynthia Kirkwood.  A with the first LOST BLUES collection, painter Steve Keene was called upon again to create supplemental imagery for the campaign to spread the word about LB2, which Keene responded to with enthusiasm and breathtaking result.

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All Most Heaven - Rian Murphy and Will Oldham - Streaming Now

In early 1997, Rian Murphy had worked with a group including Jim O'Rourke in Chicago for the production of Edith Frost's Calling Over TimeIn the months that followed, Oldham suggested they do a production involving himself, Murphy and O'Rourke, in which Oldham would demo the songs and hand them over to Murphy and O'Rourke, who would create productions to be sung over with all-star singers to be determined later. A cassette with four songs was delivered, and based on the unusual, sometimes onomatopoeiac nature of the lyrics,  O'Rourke made musical arrangements with an eye towards a certain chamber-pop lushness. He and Murphy tracked the four songs at the now-defunct Solid Sound studio in northwest suburban Hoffman Estates, with a band including Jed Bishop, Michael Colligan, Kevin Drumm, Darin Gray, David Grubbs, Thymme Jones, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Joan Morrone, Julie Pomerleau, Rick Rizzo and Neil Rosario. Rian and Jim supplied scratch vocals and the songs were rough mixed in preparation for distribution to selected singers. Names like Eddie Vedder and Lucinda Williams were suggested, but nothing more than initial contact was made. This part of the process stretched over many months, and in the following year or so, lead vocals were solicited from Bill Callahan and Laetitia Sadier and recorded at Electrical Audio. During this time, Oldham also sang a set of leads for the tunes, and mixes were dispatched to a film project he'd availed several of the tracks to. Additional overdubs by Murphy, with a drum performance from Rich Shuler, were added at the also-now-defunct Airwave Studio (home to one of the city's last old-school acoustic echo chambers) in Chicago's Roscoe Village. At this point, the project was two years old and two of the four songs didn't have finished lead vocals, according to the original plan - or all four songs had Oldham singing lead, depending on how it was regarded. In the interest of finishing the EP before yet another year passed, mixes were prepared with Oldham's vocals and the leads of Callahan and Sadier reduced in scale - Callahan in "duet" with Oldham and Sadier relocated to the harmony choir. Final overdubbing and mixing was undertaken back at Electrical Audio. Archer Prewitt added a variety of things including a vocal trio arrangement sung by Archer, Edith Frost and Kelly Hogan. Then it was done! For the cover art, a photo session involving a truckload of antiques and 18th-century costumes was executed in the what is now called the Cortelyou Common building on the campus of DePaul University, where Murphy's father taught theatre. Oldham supplied the title and that was all she wrote. Murphy and Oldham subsequently played the songs together on a midwestern tour in the late summer of 2001.

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Ease Down The Road - Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Streaming Now

The I SEE A DARKNESS session had gone well; not a lot of panic, all of the desperation in the lyric instead of in the room in which it was recorded.  As he had done before and would try to do again, Will Oldham attempted to re-create some of the circumstances that helped DARKNESS come to be for the next full-length recording session.  By this time, Oldham had moved to Baltimore where his brother Ned lived with his family.  Houses were inexpensive there too, and there’s an international airport.  He met drummer Jon Theodore there, and invited him down to Paul Oldham’s Rove Studios in Shelbyville, KY for a week of basic tracking.  Mike Fellows was asked to play the bass.  Oldham had gotten to know Fellows first through the Royal Trux (for that matter, that’s how he’d first heard Theodore as well), and had gotten to know him better in New York City.  The plan this time was to head to Shelbyville for a month, bringing in musicians two or three at a time.  Along with engineer Paul Oldham, the crucial co-conspirator on this session was co-producer David PajoOldham and Pajo billed themselves as the Continental OP when they worked as a collaborative duo, named for the Dashiell Hammett character.  It was summer time, and the corn surrounding the house in Shelbyville was high.  Fellows nailed all of the bass parts but one, the part for what would be the title song, “Ease Down the Road”.  For that, Ned Oldham was brought in.  Ned stayed to lay some gorgeous vocal harmonies down.  Non-musicians Bryan Rich and Harmony Korine were brought in to beef up the ambience, and beef it up they did.  Oldham had met Matt Sweeney on the streets of New York and they became fast friends and collaborators.  Sweeney came to the sessions and ended up opening the entire record with his electric guitar lick for “May It Always Be”.  Catherine Irwin, of Freakwater and the Dickbrains, drove over from Louisville to sing sweet high and clear.  Todd Brashear and Paul Greenlaw made great reappearances, singing and playing both.  The last musical collaboration with Oldham for both had been THERE IS NO-ONE WHAT WILL TAKE CARE OF YOUMatt Everett came down from Providence, RI to play violin.  In all, Oldham was gathering friends and forces from the first decade-plus of his professional life-in-music to make this record; the title points to an understanding of a place in motion.  Pajo and Oldham used auto-tune for the first time here, always on the backing voices, creating surreal soundscapes in the midst of evidently ‘real’ spaces.  Oldham, Fellows, and Theodore recorded two warm-up covers: the Ramones’Here Today, Gone Tomorrow” and  Tommy Collins’ “Carolyn” (written for Merle Haggard, this was the first of many Haggard-associated songs for Bonnie Prince Billy; the relationship culminated in the big BPB Haggard tribute BEST TROUBADOR from 2017).  The cover of EASE DOWN THE ROAD is a photo by Oldham of a mown path in the state of Maine, echoing and contrasting the stark black-and-white roadway from the back cover of THERE IS NO-ONE.  The back cover of EASE shows Pajo and Oldham on the front porch of the Rove house in Shelbyville.  Sammy Harkham once again illustrated the lyrics, and Dianne Bellino and Joanne Oldham each painted a small color piece for the interior artwork.  There was a poster for the record with a photo by Natasha Tylea of Oldham playing live at the Second Story in Philadelphia.  For the initial European CD release, Domino included a second, bonus disc containing songs from a BBC Peel session recorded during a Bonnie tour, performed by Oldham with Matt Sweeney (on guitar), Mike Fellows (on bass) and James Lo (on drums).  Songs included “Stablemate”, “What’s Wrong With a Zoo?”, and “I Send My Love to You”.