Music » Critic's Choice

Will Oldham/Run On




Writing, recording, and performing under a variety of related names (Palace Brothers, Palace Music, Palace Songs, Palace), Will Oldham has proven consistent only in his inconsistency. He routinely shuffles lineups, radically rearranges his tunes, rehearses meticulously and then performs on the fly. Despite the occasional misstep, however, the music he creates is almost always heartrendingly powerful. Last year's beautifully stark Arise Therefore found him shifting gears again, switching from the swelling folk rock of Viva Last Blues to his most raw and unsettling music yet. Even with David Grubbs on piano and organ and Oldham's brother Ned on bass, it's still an overwhelmingly naked album. The just-released Lost Blues and Other Songs is a career-spanning singles collection that tracks Oldham's restless muse from the creepily distended "Stable Will" through the early Meat Puppets grind of "Riding" and the Neil Young-ish "Untitled" to the languid "West Palm Beach." His flawed but remarkable voice unifies the collection, its quaver more vulnerable than imperfect. With the terrific new album No Way (Matador), recorded in Chicago by Casey Rice, New York's Run On continues to fine-tune its dichotomous nature, balancing a joyous experimental bent with classic songcraft; guitarist Alan Licht's pop ditties rub against terse songs in which his contributions nearly push the whole enterprise into a morass of pure noise. But nothing can touch the album's closer, a staggering treatment of the traditional "Sinnerman," based on Nina Simone's version. Sue Garner's sublime voice revs from plangent to apocalyptic, and it's rare that such an extreme surge comes off so naturally. It's even better live. Oldham, who performs solo, headlines; Elliott Smith opens. Saturday, 10 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 773-525-6620. Run On also plays at 5 PM at Quaker Goes Deaf, 1937 W. North; 773-252-9334. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Will Oldham photo by Brad Miller/ Run On photo uncredited.

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