Whenever a new Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy album is released, it creates a feeling in me not unlike what my Mom probably feels when I tell her I’m coming home: excited, yet deeply concerned. For, who knows what unexpected changes may have taken place?
Now, I love the Billy. I admire the frank depiction of human sexuality, I appreciate the loyalty and adherence to tone, and I take sick delight in the wry sense of humor. And above all, I love the honesty. It transcends lyrical content and even the music itself to create unique listening experiences on each album. This honesty, this effortless self-expression, has produced an oeuvre that is eclectic as it is coarse. To me, 2003’s Master and Everyone is Oldham’s true masterpiece (every fan will pronounce a different album to be his best). But the beauty of Oldham’s catalog is that, like every human being, it is not static, not sedentary. It’s schizophrenic, torn, unsure – constantly vacillating in the tide of his experience.
Lie Down in the Light, Billy’s newest album of original songs, is certainly a departure from anything he’s produced before, yet still bleeds the same plainspoken wisdom of his back catalog. Echoing the sunny disposition and country/folk influence of American Beauty-era Grateful Dead, Crosby Stills, and to some extent late Byrds, the album sounds like an afternoon skinnydip in a sunkissed lake. Dragonflies rest on lilypads in the lazy light, but the crickets aren’t quite ready to chirp yet. It’s a summer album – full of all the sentimentality, hope, and inevitable betrayal that the season implies.