Friday Recommends, movies, music, things that make you sad

Friday Recommends: Will Oldham, a k a Bonnie “Prince” Billy

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Will Oldham, pictured above, is a rather eccentric looking character. This should not stop you from partaking in all that he has to offer artistically.

Oldham’s most recent role was in Old Joy, a beautiful little film directed by Kelly Reichardt. It’s about two friends, Kurt and Mark, reuniting for a hike in the Cascade mountain range outside Portland, Oregon. The film is so subtle and elegiac — very little happens in the way of plot — that it took us a second viewing to realize what has actually transpired between the two. The friendship has ended, with Kurt (Oldham), the nomadic free spirit, and Mark (Daniel London), the soon-to-be-father, saying goodbye and going their separate ways, one imagines, for good. The film has the qualities of a great short story (which it was), with a soundtrack by Yo La Tengo to boot.

Oldham also had a bit role in Junebug and played the young preacher Danny Radnor in John Sayles’s Matewan. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Oldham said he had “serious doubts” about a career in Hollywood because it would require too much “interpersonal contact.” (Translation: “I’m a strange, bearded dude who needs my space.”) “Like I want to spend time with a bunch of people I don’t respect?” Oldham said. “I’d rather teach preschool and spend time with people I have a lot in common with.”

Oldham is better known as Bonnie “Prince” Billy, prolific master of the hummable, melancholic folk song. (If you like Bon Iver, you owe a debt of gratitude to BPB.) The Prince’s new album, Lie Down in the Light, ranks among his best, and has been on constant rotation in Erin’s car for the past two weeks. Johnny Cash covered “I See A Darkness” for American III: Solitary Man, and Oldham himself sang back-up on the chorus. That song, on par with William Styron’s Darkness Visible in its portrayal of the bleakness of the depressive soul, would make you want to stick your head in the oven if it weren’t so beautiful. On a brighter note, BPB’s song “New Partner” was the closing track on the Vore’s “Lovesick” wedding favor CD. And most of his other music, like “Easy Does It” off Lie Down, is just flat-out gorgeous to listen to.

Will Oldham. Dark guy. Makes great art. Introduce yourself.


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