― Mark, Wednesday, 19 June 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
favourite song title, rather. the album from which it's taken, arise, therefor, is very dull though, imo. i'm not an expert on the man, though my brother was very enthousiastic about the palace brothers' there is no-one that will take care of you.
― willem, Wednesday, 19 June 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― nathalie, Wednesday, 19 June 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
your appreciation of oldham probably rises and falls with three
things: a. your appreciation of his basic shtick (rich indie kid from
louisville, ex-child actor playing faux-ozarks ballads), b. the
rather...cracked quality of his voice, c. the quality of the
songwriting itself (which i think is actually quite high if not
exactly immediately memorable...cf. my above comment about not
realizing i owned almost all his records.)
it's too early in the morning to do a full on s&d but for right now
"there is no one what will take care of you" - the first palace
brothers albun, released in its first edition anonymously, not unlike
john fahey's first lp. obviously his songwriting and voice are at
their earliest but not necesarily weakest: when he stretches out he
sounds like a particularly enervated neil young.
"days in the wake" - the most stripped down release in the oldham
catalogue, right down to the jandek referencing cover art. mostly
just will and guitar, quite a few emotional bombs/great lines
dropped, an LP a shade over 27 minutes.
"i see a darkness" - probably his all around best record, 38 minutes,
short and sweet. dig the celtic/islands vibe on "madeline mary" and
the fuzzed out sub-dub bass of "death to everyone." also, the last
track may be the prettiest thing he's ever written.
"ease down the road" - tom favorably compared these to the fat &
happy & bearded dylan of the (mid?) 70s. he's right; a contented
oldham is not necessarily a happy oldham, but he's certainly janutier
also SEARCH: the johnny cash cover of "i see a darkness" on american
iii: solitary man. a mediation on a vision of death by a man who at
the time was staring it directly in the face.
― jess, Wednesday, 19 June 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
The only album I rarely listen to anymore is Arise Therefore, the
rest are in constant rotation.
Search the Almost Heaven EP too, with Rian Murphy.
― Jeff, Wednesday, 19 June 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Colin Meeder, Wednesday, 19 June 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Curt, Wednesday, 19 June 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
Personally though I amn't listening to that kind of music now, I
think Will Oldham is a great man.
I see a darkness is probably one of my favourite songs ever, I
forget if it made my perfect 15 or not.
His cover of AC/DC Big Balls is pretty good too. I don't have all
his stuff but I wish I did. I think what makes him interesting is his
voice which can convey desperation and sadness better than
almost anyone else I've ever heard.
Search Also:Every Mothers Son, and most of I see a darkness
― Ronan, Wednesday, 19 June 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Douglas, Wednesday, 19 June 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
I don't know if I would destroy the likes of Arise, Therefore, Joya,
and his inumerable EPs and "versions," but they generally don't do
much for me. He definitely hit a slack patch there for a while around
When he first started out, he appeared to be the epitome of something
I really hate--the po-faced roots-music dilettante. But there was
something so idiosyncratic and cracked about the first single and
album that I was hooked anyway. Then I saw him live for the first
time: no acoustic guitars, no wood-smoke croon--he was leading a rock
band and wearing leather pants that laced up the sides. Confounded
again. Then he put out Days in the Wake: solo acoustic, with tons
more of those great what-the-hell-is-that-all-about songs. After that
I paid close attention just in case I might miss something.
Now I take him at his word that he's feeling his way forward, trying
to write about emotional states that aren't always rational, or that
he has trouble articulating rationally. And while even the best
albums he's done since have their weak songs--or even moments when it
sounds like he's just a musical slummer whacking off with both hands--
like as not he comes up with a few tunes that describe or tap into
something I've felt but couldn't have described either. And then
there's his singing, which is almost always worth a listen, even
though it annoys me to distraction when he chews gum while singing
As a side note, I also like the way he casually drops the erotic and
vulgar into his lyrics. I mean, some of his lyrics are bizarrely,
explicitly sex-obsessed, but that stuff is never there to shock or
serve as a punchline (well, except maybe that bit about fucking a
mountain). In his songs wrong-headed trysts, cum stains, blowjobs,
and cunnilingus are just as much a part of life as not knowing how
you feel. Seems pretty sound to me.
― Lee G, Wednesday, 19 June 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
here's a pic of Will
― Steve K, Wednesday, 19 June 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Keiko, Wednesday, 19 June 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Julio Desouza, Wednesday, 19 June 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
definitely some melody there for you. check out the peel session
of "you have cum in your hair..." which I like better than the
i find him interesting because he has a great voice (narrative-
wise, but also vocally) uh... is it indie-pride week yet?
― gygax! (i forgot my blog password), Wednesday, 19 June 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Todd Brandenburg, Friday, 21 June 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― daria gray, Saturday, 22 June 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― david h(owie), Saturday, 22 June 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
I got Arise, Therefore today. PERFECT for my mood.
― Ian Johnson (orion), Sunday, 30 November 2003 01:44 (fourteen years ago) Permalink
― fiddo centington (dubplatestyle), Sunday, 30 November 2003 01:48 (fourteen years ago) Permalink
― fiddo centington (dubplatestyle), Sunday, 30 November 2003 01:49 (fourteen years ago) Permalink
Colin, you're not alone, I am also a big fan of Arise, Therefore. I think it's one of his most consistent works. I am very much looking forward to his upcoming greatest hits record, which I heard will be re-recordings.
It's hard to explain the mystique, I'm aware of the pretense of it all, but somehow, I find him very talented despite the obviously forced illusions. I think he'd be great to have a beer with. I don't own all of his records but the ones I do have I would not trade. Fair enough?
― roger adultery (roger adultery), Sunday, 30 November 2003 02:04 (fourteen years ago) Permalink
― arjun (arjun), Sunday, 30 November 2003 18:15 (fourteen years ago) Permalink
― jed (jed_e_3), Sunday, 30 November 2003 18:41 (fourteen years ago) Permalink
― russ p., Sunday, 30 November 2003 18:56 (fourteen years ago) Permalink
― Elliot (Elliot), Sunday, 30 November 2003 19:18 (fourteen years ago) Permalink
When I saw him, he didn't so much change as flesh out some of the earlier, sparser melodies. A lot of the really meandering/weird stuff from Days In The Wake, for example, was given a nice full band treatment. He also played with solo electric guitar for about 1/3 of the set, the band coming out to rejoin him for the end.
― Ian Johnson (orion), Sunday, 30 November 2003 23:49 (fourteen years ago) Permalink
Further comments... there's a six minute long, full-band version of "No More Workhorse Blues" on this bootleg from Austria I found. Crazy. Parts of it sound spanish, then when the song climax the drums really start to come in. Unrecognizable initially!
― Ian Johnson (orion), Wednesday, 14 January 2004 08:54 (fourteen years ago) Permalink
There's also a wonderfully twisted piece written by will in today's guardian.
― hmmm (hmmm), Wednesday, 17 March 2004 09:53 (fourteen years ago) Permalink
(p.s. THANKS NA!!!!!!)
― amateur!st (amateurist), Wednesday, 28 July 2004 03:13 (thirteen years ago) Permalink
― amateur!st (amateurist), Wednesday, 28 July 2004 03:18 (thirteen years ago) Permalink
― chris andrews (fraew), Wednesday, 28 July 2004 03:29 (thirteen years ago) Permalink
― St. Nicholas (Nick A.), Wednesday, 28 July 2004 20:02 (thirteen years ago) Permalink
― russ p., Wednesday, 28 July 2004 21:23 (thirteen years ago) Permalink
A question, though: how can I find out who played on/produced the songs, without tracking down the original singles? The big Oldham websites don't seem to have that info. I'd like to know which song(s) were produced by Kramer, Adam & Eve, etc...
― morris pavilion (samjeff), Monday, 9 August 2004 20:15 (thirteen years ago) Permalink
― |a|m|t|r|s|t| (amateurist), Tuesday, 10 August 2004 03:44 (thirteen years ago) Permalink
― |a|m|t|r|s|t| (amateurist), Tuesday, 10 August 2004 03:45 (thirteen years ago) Permalink
― |a|m|t|r|s|t| (amateurist), Tuesday, 10 August 2004 04:10 (thirteen years ago) Permalink
there's always been a protean quality to his music, which often goes overlooked largely because of the superhuman insularity of his misterioso hillbilly shtick. people tend to link him with these old balladeer types, which a certain prominent vein of his music does encourage. but i hear--sublimated and reconstituted beautifully in the last 3 records--a whole bunch of less-austere influences (sorry mark) there, like a thousand singer-songwriters and alterindie bands.
― |a|m|t|r|s|t| (amateurist), Tuesday, 10 August 2004 05:04 (thirteen years ago) Permalink
― |a|m|t|r|s|t| (amateurist), Tuesday, 10 August 2004 05:05 (thirteen years ago) Permalink
― |a|m|t|r|s|t| (amateurist), Tuesday, 10 August 2004 05:07 (thirteen years ago) Permalink
― |a|m|t|r|s|t| (amateurist), Tuesday, 10 August 2004 05:34 (thirteen years ago) Permalink
I don't know why I never really responded to the other Palace albums (though I like some of the songs on "Days in the Wake"). These early singles are just another breed - not just the songs themselves, but the production, the playing, the atmosphere...
― morris pavilion (samjeff), Tuesday, 10 August 2004 15:28 (thirteen years ago) Permalink
"just to see my holly home" is a very funny song. it's about, i guess, the dark side of the whole "nuclear family" thing--the family has a remarkable closeness, but it comes from denigrating and attacking all others and ultimately locking them and the world out forever. oldham cheerfully places mysogynystic musings next to a kind of idealization of his partner/family. anyway this is a boring exegesis but what makes it work is how oldham finds a peculiar balance b/t silliness and earnestness. the balance wouldn't hold if the song had such an insinuating sound.
― |a|m|t|r|s|t| (amateurist), Tuesday, 10 August 2004 16:17 (thirteen years ago) Permalink
― |a|m|t|r|s|t| (amateurist), Tuesday, 10 August 2004 16:18 (thirteen years ago) Permalink
― roger adultery (roger adultery), Tuesday, 10 August 2004 16:56 (thirteen years ago) Permalink
― jed_ (jed), Tuesday, 10 August 2004 23:30 (thirteen years ago) Permalink
― robin (robin), Tuesday, 10 August 2004 23:31 (thirteen years ago) Permalink
wasn't joya the first lp under the will oldham name? it felt momentous to me (at 16) for that reason and so looms large in my personal palace cosmology. really good record still i think. i need to revisit ease down the road.
― adam, Tuesday, 30 June 2015 14:34 (two years ago) Permalink
I like both Joya and EDTR. They're records that could only have been made by a guy in his thirties. Anyway, that's how I like to think of them.
The s/t album from 2013 is, I think, his strongest work in years.
I went back to Master & Everyone a few weeks back and found it really dull. I always confuse that one with Beware (which iirc is pretty good)
― Wimmels, Tuesday, 30 June 2015 15:08 (two years ago) Permalink
oldham sounds so good on this new joan shelley song: https://soundcloud.com/noquarterrex/stay-on-my-shore-by-joan-shelley
― tylerw, Tuesday, 30 June 2015 15:10 (two years ago) Permalink
He did a low-key show in Louisville the other night, would have been great to be there.
― anthony braxton diamond geezer (anagram), Tuesday, 30 June 2015 15:15 (two years ago) Permalink
Ease Down The Road is my favorite. And perfect one to listen to this time of year. Pajo's Allman-y solo on "May It Always Be" followed by the line "And in the morning we'll wrestle and ruin our stomachs with coffee."
― ... (Eazy), Tuesday, 30 June 2015 15:17 (two years ago) Permalink
The only blight on that record is "Just To See My Holly Home." I always skip that one.
― Wimmels, Tuesday, 30 June 2015 15:29 (two years ago) Permalink
nah. that's one of the better songs on that album imo.
― circa1916, Tuesday, 30 June 2015 15:36 (two years ago) Permalink
ent back to Master & Everyone a few weeks back and found it really dull. I always confuse that one with Beware (which iirc is pretty good)
― Wimmels, Tuesday, June 30, 2015 11:08 AM (30 minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink
i confuse them too. i have never been able to get into master & everyone, it definitely seems super dull and boring, i don't know maybe it will click for me one day
― marcos, Tuesday, 30 June 2015 15:40 (two years ago) Permalink
i love holly home!
M&E is like a balm/relief for a troubled psyche, it's soft, tenuous, warm. there are nice subtleties to mark nevers' production.. he also recorded is a woman by Lambchop, which is remarkably lush and spare.
― braunld (Lowell N. Behold'n), Tuesday, 30 June 2015 15:48 (two years ago) Permalink
definitely a lot of beautiful and subtle touches poured onto M&E, but the songs (outside of The Way, which is gorgeous and crushing) never really stuck with me.
― circa1916, Tuesday, 30 June 2015 15:53 (two years ago) Permalink
been many years since i've listened though. should really revisit.
― circa1916, Tuesday, 30 June 2015 15:54 (two years ago) Permalink
"maundering" resonates, w/its lyrics, and a lean, ranch fence-styled guitar lead.. a minor highlight of the album. weed helped to synchronize with the general wavelength/vibe of the album.
― braunld (Lowell N. Behold'n), Tuesday, 30 June 2015 17:12 (two years ago) Permalink
caught them live, maybe a year or so after master and everyone was released. the songs def had more weight and power, spruced up and rocked out somewhat. it helped to be already familiar with the material as well.. they played at one of the better venues (the zephyr) in salt lake city, before it closed down. I believe ZWAN had also played in town that day, as some of the members were in the audience.
― braunld (Lowell N. Behold'n), Tuesday, 30 June 2015 17:24 (two years ago) Permalink
― djh, Saturday, 23 January 2016 09:31 (two years ago) Permalink
Saw him last night at the Vic in Chicago. He's got an astoundingly gifted band with him right now. The last song -- a medley of "Jolly One (2/15)" and "New Partner" that included harmonies from Maiden Radio (including Joan Shelley and Cheyenne Mize) -- was just gorgeous.
Having heard him in the early days then sort of checking out for good twelve or fifteen years, I'm blown away at the artist he's turned into. The thing that kind of blows my mind is that he still has a long career ahead of him. Really curious where he'll be creatively in another ten years.
― john. a resident of chicago., Friday, 19 February 2016 16:14 (two years ago) Permalink
Nice, he's been doing that as a set closer for a while:
― Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Friday, 19 February 2016 16:55 (two years ago) Permalink
So majestic when he's hood flies off at the end of the song. Surely staged.
― Jeff, Saturday, 20 February 2016 12:43 (two years ago) Permalink
Will Oldham can control the weather. Next steps in career: mainstream country success, own line of eyeliner, meteorokinesis.
― Jeff, Saturday, 20 February 2016 12:52 (two years ago) Permalink
I've been aware of Oldham since his earliest output, which didn't do much for me back then, and in the ensuing years I've dipped in and out of his vast discography. Some albums are good, some not as good, but for some reason I'm one of those guys for whom "I See a Darkness" is the only Oldham I'll ever play. The guy is certainly gifted, but I sometimes feel like there is a secret language I'm just not understanding, or other people are pretending to understand. Is it me, or is it him?
― Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 2 August 2016 22:32 (one year ago) Permalink
A sentence I have not heard anyone utter in at least twenty years: "There's a song on the new Bonnie Prince Billy album you've just got to hear." Talented chap but has been coasting / resting on his laurels for a long time.
― Wimmels, Tuesday, 2 August 2016 22:54 (one year ago) Permalink
It was a while ago but I think Superwolf has some must-hears.
― JoeStork, Tuesday, 2 August 2016 22:56 (one year ago) Permalink
I really want that album he did with Bitchin Bajas with the fortune cookie lyrics
― Οὖτις, Tuesday, 2 August 2016 22:58 (one year ago) Permalink
josh - i think, at least to me, the 'secret' language you allude to is rather just the 'world' of palace/bonnie itself. will's skew-whiff delivery aside, the appeal for me is how he fluidly embodies his work... the way he just seems to breathe and live everything thats inside him. it can seem cryptic on the surface. really i think its just existential. i feel the same way about jandek, who's existential throughout his catalogue, too. while jandek's a tough listen, sometimes, i can sit and read jandek's lyrics for hours on end. digressing a bit, but... i suppose that's as succinct as i can try to be about will. maybe it sounds like im talking out my arse... im just trying to articulate what you picked up on a bit.
― meaulnes, Tuesday, 2 August 2016 23:09 (one year ago) Permalink
I think the best record he did was the one with Nashville session guys, Sings Greatest Palace Music. I didn't mind Singer's Grave a Sea of Tongues, but whatever. I've always found him just a bit...ahh, ehh. He's got good taste in stuff, for sure.
― Edd Hurt, Wednesday, 3 August 2016 02:12 (one year ago) Permalink
Ease Down The Road is my pick. Also, his book-long conversation with Alan Licht is pretty good at articulating the choices of persona, arrangements, etc.
― thrill of transgressin (Eazy), Wednesday, 3 August 2016 02:15 (one year ago) Permalink
fave thing he ever did was that version of Hot Chip's I Feel Better, "I Feel Bonnie"
― mingalaba, Wednesday, 3 August 2016 02:25 (one year ago) Permalink
How does this thread have no mention of the gorgeous, moving, lyrical The Letting Go? Dawn McCarthy brings ellipsoid, inverted harmonies from another dimension, Valgeir Sigurðsson's production and orchestration is sympathetic and minimal, and the songs are understated and absolutely devastating.Oldham's greatest work bypasses form and makes an unusually direct emotional connection. If you don't feel it, you don't, but I do.Seek: Days in the Wake, Hope EP, Viva Last Blues, Arise, Therefore, Black/Rich Music, Lost Blues, I See a Darkness, Little Lost Blues, The Letting GoDestroy Sings Greatest Palace Music (sorry, I know many like it) - apart from TLG he kind of lost me after that.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FsddBLr6pFc
― MatthewK, Wednesday, 3 August 2016 03:24 (one year ago) Permalink
yeah there are tons of great songs in his stuff from the last decade... he just releases a lot of stuff, which i think minimizes the market/word-of-mouth impact of any one album or song.
― wizzz! (amateurist), Wednesday, 3 August 2016 04:48 (one year ago) Permalink
I was completely obsessed during my college years. Yeah, as beautifully articulated above, it's less catchy jams and more about a lilting, dark/light mystic world that he conjures and inhabits. I think he's a brilliant lyricist and persona.
― circa1916, Wednesday, 3 August 2016 06:26 (one year ago) Permalink
This is his most underappreciated song in recent years that I've heard. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIv-pD6R7VI
― Chris L, Wednesday, 3 August 2016 08:59 (one year ago) Permalink
I love this all-time classic post (well okay, actually two posts)
i went to a fair in a small and quaint english town once & all the villagers were wearing costumes & among them walked bonnie prince billy― schlump, Saturday, 15 November 2014 06:51 (1 year ago) Permalinki have a picture somewhereit was nice because there was a moment when we pointed across the harbour while we were eating at a man with a big beard wearing all denim, & said that he looked like bonnie prince billy, this amusing because bonnie prince billy's look is that of the strange man of the village, probably at least approximately replicated in most small and quaint villagesbut it was bonnie prince billy― schlump, Saturday, 15 November 2014 06:53 (1 year ago) Permalink
― schlump, Saturday, 15 November 2014 06:51 (1 year ago) Permalink
i have a picture somewhere
it was nice because there was a moment when we pointed across the harbour while we were eating at a man with a big beard wearing all denim, & said that he looked like bonnie prince billy, this amusing because bonnie prince billy's look is that of the strange man of the village, probably at least approximately replicated in most small and quaint villages
but it was bonnie prince billy
― schlump, Saturday, 15 November 2014 06:53 (1 year ago) Permalink
― Tell me who sends these infamous .gifs (bernard snowy), Wednesday, 3 August 2016 11:05 (one year ago) Permalink
I'm far from a BPB completist, but I feel comfortable saying that the best thing he's done in recent years = helping to launch Angel Olsen's career. The Now Here's My Plan EP of reworked old material is also a highlight... I seem to recall the 2013 s/t LP being nice though I haven't listened to it since it first came out.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSO2SqwI-cI <<< this is hawt
― Tell me who sends these infamous .gifs (bernard snowy), Wednesday, 3 August 2016 11:09 (one year ago) Permalink
A like a lot, or at least some, of what many of you have mentioned - I want to say I've enjoyed The Letting Go and more recently Beware and Lie Down Into the Light, though not Plays Greatest - but like I said, "Darkness" is the only one I honestly ever go back to. It could be that at least from my perspective, even if his other stuff is good, that album is just better? I dunno. Like I mentioned, I've been at least casually following him since, I dunno, 1993 or so? That's when I moved to Chicago, and that's when a lot of friends of mine were really into Palace. But Palace never did it for me then, and every several years I try again and it has yet to click. I don't find it objectively "bad," I just can't put my finger on what's pushing me away. (I'm also not a fan of Slint, so who knows.)
I think the persona thing may be what keeps me a few arms lengths away. I mean, Dylan has a persona, too, but I've never had much of an emotional connection to his music, even the stuff I like best, yet that's never been a problem; I find him best at his funniest, not his most heartbreaking. But BPB, I've had people say "you have to listen to such and such song/album, it will just reduce you to tears!" Yet while I can hear, academically, what he's after, perhaps it's the persona stuff that keeps me from embracing it, or getting out of it what he wants me to.
That said, like Dylan, I think Oldham can be really funny, too, but maybe it's just funny in all the wrong places and that throws me off.
― Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 3 August 2016 13:17 (one year ago) Permalink
i like this guy most on side-projects it seems. that Bitchin Bajas thing (weiiird meditative noodling) and Superwolf are highly recommended!
― Ludo, Wednesday, 3 August 2016 14:30 (one year ago) Permalink
lie down in the light & beware are both great
― Pull your head on out your hippy haze (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Wednesday, 3 August 2016 14:39 (one year ago) Permalink
His most recent 'proper' album, Singer's Grave - A Sea of Tongues, is really very good.
― Steve Reich In The Afternoon (Against The 80s), Wednesday, 3 August 2016 14:47 (one year ago) Permalink
i adore all the palace stuff, ISAD, joya, all BPB up to ease down the road, after that i find him really boring and spotty but there is a lot i haven't listened to. master and everyone, beware, etc are snoozefests, though lie down in the light has a few songs i really enjoy. i still ahven't heard greatest palace music! i bet i would like it.
― marcos, Thursday, 4 August 2016 14:24 (one year ago) Permalink
― Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Saturday, 3 February 2018 08:11 (three months ago) Permalink
My friend Caroline Peyton sings on Singer's Grave, she'd worked w/ Mark Nevers previously and Will thought her voice would be perfect for "Quail and DUMPLINGS!."
― eddhurt, Sunday, 4 February 2018 20:18 (three months ago) Permalink
Interesting early band history c/o Drag City:
STREAM PALACE 1993posted April 1st, 2018
OHIO RIVER BOAT SONG
It was the summer of 1992 and Todd Brashear invited his friend Will Oldham to come live with him in Bloomington, Indiana where Brashear was in the Audio Engineering program at IU. Oldham moved into a house with Brashear and his schoolmate Grant Barger, and soon they began working on music all together. They set up a weekend session at the house with Barger at the controls, using his 8-track cassette recording machine (not to be confused with the crappy 8-track tape format popularized in the 1970s). They invited David Pajo to come up from Louisville to play on the session. There were three songs to tackle: “For the Mekons et al”, “Two More Days”, and “Drinking Woman”. Brashear played drums and lap steel and sang harmonies, Barger played bass and Pajo played lead guitars (both acoustic and electric). Oldham sang and played acoustic guitar. The house was an older house with high ceilings and wood floors, and Barger’s engineering was impeccable so that everything sounded good and felt in line with an aesthetic that felt like a true realization of what was in Oldham’s mind.
Around the same time, Brashear and Oldham scheduled a session in the IU studios, with Brashear as engineer. Britt Walford and Brian McMahan came up from Louisville and, there in the fancy studio using 16-track 2” magnetic tape, the group recorded “Ohio River Boat Song” and “Riding”, with McMahan playing drums, Brashear playing bass and Walford playing electric guitar. This sound was big and clean and the songs had a polish to them that differed significantly from the house recording with Barger. Beautiful, though maybe not quite the kind of recordings Oldham was beginning to want to be a part of. The Barger session was all about assembling people and getting the takes right together as an ensemble, while the Brashear session was more about studio craft. One could listen to “Drinking Woman” and hear the musicians clearly, almost imagine one is in the room as the song happens. “Ohio River Boat Song” has more of an out-of-time-and-place vibe happening. Brashear and Barger were both great engineers, and the methods and technology used for the two sessions differed significantly.
Oldham sent cassettes to a few record labels featuring a proposed 7” single: “For the Mekons, et al” backed with “Drinking Woman”. A perfect single! Of the four labels Oldham sent tapes to (including Matador, Homestead, and Interscope), only Drag City responded enthusiastically. He’d sent Drag City the tape because he had a copy of the Silver Jews“Dime Map of the Reef” EP and sensed a value-system in play that might accept some of what was being dished out. Drag City said they were intrigued but needed to hear more. Oldham sent them “Ohio River Boat Song” and Drag City was sold; they liked the solid power of that recording. They asked if they could match this latter song with a song from the earlier cassette for release as a single. “Drinking Woman” was a born B-side. The Mekons ode would have to wait for a more opportune moment.
The cover of the single was designed by Paul Greenlaw, a great visual and musical artist from Rhode Island. Greenlaw used an archival aerial photograph of some unnamed coastline over which he superimposed lettering fashioned from a photograph Oldham had taken of Mekons violinist Susie Honeyman (when Greenlaw started the design, the idea was still for “For the Mekons et al” to be the A-side). The lettering spelled out “palace songs”. In the lower-right corner of the front cover was a sad yellow bird that Greenlaw had drawn. The back cover featured a Greenlaw elephant, a “Palace Brothers” banner, a fleur-de-lis (symbol of Louisville, KY) and a photo from the “Drinking Woman” session of Oldham, Brashear and Pajo. There’s an alphabetical listing of contributors to the existence of the record, as Oldham was still figuring things out and didn’t know how best to attribute the existence of any fraction of the whole. Only black and yellow inks were used on the sleeve in order to keep costs down. The label design was a throwback to old-school labels: royal blue with metallic silver ink. Dan Osborn is the Drag City graphics admiral and he executed the label design beautifully.
Oldham shot a video for “Ohio River Boat Song” on 16mm black-and-white film using a wind-up Russian camera. The footage centered around the early morning horse exercises at Churchill Downs in the spring. Osborn and Oldham edited the footage at Osborn’s office in the HARPO compound.
“For the Mekons et al” came out later on the compilation Hey Drag City. “Two More Days” came out on a compilation called Love Is My Only Crime, released in Europe. “Riding” was re-arranged and re-recorded for the record There is No-One What Will Take Care of You. The recording of “Riding” from the Bloomington session was included on Lost Blues and Other Songs.
The "Ohio River Boat Song" single is streaming everywhere now.
THERE IS NO-ONE WHAT WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU
Once the “Ohio River Boat Song” single went into production, Drag City asked the Palace Brothers for a full-length record. Over the summer in Bloomington, Oldham had been writing songs and was thrilled to find that these songs might have a welcome place in the world, at least when it came to there being a label willing to release them. At the end of summer, Oldham moved back to Providence, Rhode Island, where he was ambivalently pursing a college degree in semiotics. He went to ethnomusicology professor Jeff Titon and suggested an independent study class, supervised by Titon, in which Oldham would work on a set of songs derived in many ways from a variety of historical styles, forms and sources. Oldham worked on many of the songs with musicians Matt Fanuele, Paul Greenlaw, John Davis, Mark Cummins, and Colin Gagon. Davis introduced Oldham to the records of the Royal Trux, and at one point during the fall the Trux came through Providence on tour. The band stayed over at the house Oldham shared with writer Bob Arellano. For Oldham, it was the first in-person encounter with the inner world of Drag City; not just Jennifer Herrema and Neil Hagerty, but also drummer Rian Murphy, the third leg of the power tripod (with Dan Osborn and Dan Koretzky) that has defined the character and mission of Drag City over the years.
Oldham and Brashear scheduled the recording session for December of 1992 in Kentucky. Grant Barger would engineer, using his 8-track cassette rig. There were two recording locations: a house on Ohio Street (which street has since lost its name to the larger Frankfort Avenue, of which it is effectively an extension) owned by Steve Driesler (who has, in more recent years, re-entered the Drag City galaxy through his work on the White Glove Test book of Louisville music fliers and his involvement with the Endtables reissue record) and a cabin outside of Brandenburg, KY, called “Merciful”. Brian McMahan and Britt Walford would play on the record, along with Barger, Brashear, Oldham and Paul Greenlaw. Brashear, Barger, McMahan and Walford traded off instruments (inspired, in part, by the Bad Seeds records of the 1980s), while Oldham stuck to singing and playing the guitar and Greenlaw played the banjo. Greenlaw was a deeply inspired and unique banjoist; it was the sound of Greenlaw, as opposed to the sound of a banjo, that made Greenlaw’s presence crucial.
The record was mixed by Brashear, Barger, and Oldham at Brashear’s parents house in east Louisville.
There were fifteen songs considered for the recording. A cover of the Rolling Stones “Hand of Fate” was dropped at the last minute. The full-length record ended up with twelve songs. The outtakes were “Don’t I Look Good Today”, which came out on a double 7” comp called Louisville Sluggers 3, released on Mike Bacayu’s Self Destruct label; and “Valentine’s Day”, which came out eventually on the Palace Music comp Lost Blues and Other Songs. The rest of the songs were new originals Oldham began during the previous summer in Bloomington, except “Riding”, which was begun a year or two earlier, and a cover of Washington Phillips’ “I Had a Good Mother and Father”.
Auspiciously, David Berman and Bob Nastanovitch of the Silver Jews passed through Louisville and stopped by the session at Driesler’s house. It had been the Silver Jews 7” Ep that had inspired Oldham to send the first Palace Brothers recordings to Drag City.
Greenlaw painted and/or the covers for There Is No-One What Will Take Care Of You. Oldham had asked him to render the fable of the mouse and the lion and requested that Greenlaw use bright pink and yellow. Greenlaw worked on the cover intensely, ultimately coming up with four powerful variations. Ultimately, all four were utilized, each for a different format or pressing. The back cover is a black and white photograph of a road in northern Scotland taken by Oldham during a hitch-hiking trip.
The record was licensed, via a connection made by Nastanovitch, to the British label Big Cat. The relationship with Big Cat lasted only for the one release, after which all Palace and Bonnie Prince Billy records were licensed through Domino.
There Is No-One What Will Take Care of You is streaming everywhere now.
It was 1993 and the musical ideas were flowing. Oldham wrote two songs for a 7”, “Trudy Dies” and “Come In”. There was a live-to-DAT session done in Louisville and/or Chicago that was deemed unsuccessful. Meanwhile, Neil Hagerty and Jennifer Herrema of Royal Trux were establishing themselves as freelance record producers under the noms-de-guerre Adam & Eve, and it was decided that they should guide the recording of these two songs. The studio was King Size, in Chicago, run by Dave Trumfio. Mike Fellows tracked the drums but Hagerty erased those drum tracks and replayed the kit himself. Liam Hayes played the Mellotron. Adam & Eve expressed a desire to bring out the inner Springsteen in Oldham’s songs. The front cover of the record sleeve featured a drawing by Jeff Mueller of a bird embryo. The back cover held a photograph by Oldham of land outside of Madison, Virginia. Lyrics to “Trudy Dies” were included on an insert with drawings by Dianne Bellino. There was a video made for “Come In” featuring animation by Bellino and 16mm footage of music rehearsals in the basement of David Pajo’s parents’ house.
The "Come In" single is streaming everywhere now.
Artists in this story: Palace Music
― Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Wednesday, 4 April 2018 06:48 (one month ago) Permalink
The letting go remains my favourite to this day
― Eris (Ross), Wednesday, 4 April 2018 14:21 (one month ago) Permalink
i am not reading that whole thing but THERE IS NO-ONE WHAT WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU is one of my favorite titles of anything ever
― weird woman in a bar (La Lechera), Wednesday, 4 April 2018 14:27 (one month ago) Permalink
SALVATION IS FREE
― meaulnes, Thursday, 5 April 2018 11:44 (one month ago) Permalink
Unlike the rest of Drag City catalog, he is slowly adding his catalog to Spotify week by week. Everything (including singles) up to Viva Last Blues is now available.
― sctttnnnt (pgwp), Saturday, 21 April 2018 15:21 (one month ago) Permalink
Aye - just noticed Days in the Wake and Viva Last Blues, too.
― The shard-borne beetle with his drowsy hums (Chinaski), Saturday, 21 April 2018 16:36 (one month ago) Permalink
Hope and the Mountain ep and a few early singles too, if you search the various Palace pseudonyms.
― sctttnnnt (pgwp), Saturday, 21 April 2018 16:47 (one month ago) Permalink
His recent Merle Haggard homage, Best Troubador has been getting quite a lot of replays. Odd how i find it far more rewarding to hear Billy than i do the original material.
― bodacious ignoramus, Saturday, 21 April 2018 16:52 (one month ago) Permalink
Arise Therefore, Joya and I See A Darkness have all appeared on Spotify, sometime in the last couple of weeks.
― The shard-borne beetle with his drowsy hums (Chinaski), Wednesday, 9 May 2018 12:53 (one week ago) Permalink
favorite album: Viva Last Blues (More Brother Rides, New Partner)
favorite song: "For the Mekons et al” from the Hey Drag City comp.
― nicky lo-fi, Wednesday, 9 May 2018 13:11 (one week ago) Permalink