Bonnie “Prince” Billy (aka Will Oldham) will release his excellent new album, The Letting Go (Drag City), on September 19, and he’s doing some limited touring prior to its release. But his only midwest dates are part of a series of free solo shows at indie record shops, none of which are in Chicago. The nearest stop is on Thursday, August 10 at Atomic Records in Milwaukee at 8 PM. But earlier that morning he’ll be performing live on WGN's Morning News at 8:45 AM.
It’s a shame that Chicagoans won’t get to hear him play the new tunes live anytime soon. The album was recorded in Reykjavik, Iceland, at Greenhouse Studios, where Bjork has made some of her records. Jim White (Dirty Three) plays drums, Paul Oldham plays bass, and Chicago hotshot Emmett Kelly (Cairo Gang) plays guitar, but the album’s secret weapon is Dawn McCarthy (Faun Fables), who contributes some gorgeous harmony vocals. (Her appearance on the album only makes it more clear that she needs to ditch her severely mannered FF bandmate, Nils Frykdahl, like a hot potato.) There are some fine, restrained string arrangements by Ryder McNair as well. It’s as good a batch of songs as Bonny has ever penned, filled with delicate melodies that are executed with the light touch you’d expect from the best folk music--no perturbing, excessive freak-folk touchstones anywhere in sight, and his singing has never been stronger.