Album Review: Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy: Pond Scum (Peel Sessions)

John Peel was a keen follower of Will Oldham, aka Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, deciding that he was “treading a path between the traditional and the idiosyncratic”.  In turn, Oldham called his experience recording for Peel “an affirming experience, it’s how I approach recording sessions in general”.  There was always something quite magical about a Peel session and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s was no exception.

Of the six original Peel Sessions Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy recorded, three of these sessions have been combined to create Pond Scum, a compilation that spans eight years, out now on Drag City.  This 12-track record features Oldham’s cover of Prince’s ‘The Cross’ and a previously unreleased original called ‘Beezle’.  He has also shared a new arrangement of his song ‘Rich Wife Full of Happiness’, which doesn’t appear on the album but is, according to a press release, “similar in tone”.  ‘(I Was Drunk at the) Pulpit’, originally recorded under Oldham’s earlier 90s ‘Palace’ moniker, is a fine opening track.  If just to hear that brilliant line again; “the pews creaked and shifted as they turned to watch me leave”.   ‘Beezle’ is typically subtle instrumentally with those classic Oldham poetic lyrics such as “destruction of hate, begins today”.  ‘Jolly One’ is a gorgeous, small song with big heart.  Oldham’s cover of the prayer song ‘When Thy Song Flows Through Me’ is a fitting folk tribute.

It won’t shock BPB fans to learn that this is a lonesome record overall, thoughtful and mournful, probably one for collectors and avid fans, but not to be overlooked.

Review by Jo Overfield
royalstablemusic.com

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