BON­NIE “PRINCE” BILLY Singer’s Grave/ A Sea of Tongues (Drag City)

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If you’re in the mood for a nice sulk, then Will Old­ham, who records as Bon­nie “Prince” Billy, has got a record for you. “My fa­ther’s house is gone, and all the houses in his town have crum­bled,” he sings in “There Will Be Spring.” In “Quail and Dumplings” he of­fers, “Holes in our ceil­ing, we’ve got holes in our roof/Hope that we’ve got it made has gone in a poof.” And then there’s the song ti­tled “We Are Un­happy” — a banjo-led waltz that builds to the lines “The mind, it is go­ing, and faith is de­stroyed/An empti­ness show­ing God’s cru­elty de­ployed.” Some­how, how­ever, the song is not sad; it’s a nod to grow­ing older in trou­bled times that is re­as­sur­ing in its forthright­ness, crafted with a charm­ing choir that makes your heart swell. The beau­ti­ful in­stru­men­ta­tion through­out the al­bum points out the hope that is vis­i­ble just be­neath the dis­may, ev­i­dent in the love let­ter of “Whipped” and the boxer’s con­fi­dence in “Old Match.” The record is so dense that you’ll miss many de­tails on the first dozen lis­tens. As with Old­ham’s best work, Singer’s Grave /A Sea of Tongues bor­rows from many Amer­i­can tra­di­tions while not quite fol­low­ing in any foot­steps; it re­calls Neil Young’s Har­vest Moon in that re­gard. This is an al­bum with deep, dark tones, but that only makes the light shine brighter. — Robert Ker

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