Will Oldham/Palace/Bonnie Prince Billie: S&D

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What are your favorites from this massive catalog?

And while you're at it, maybe a few words on what you think makes Oldham interesting (or not so.) I have a few albums, and I like maybe five of his songs a lot, but overall I find him dull. There's not enough melody there for me (I See A Darkness is the exception), but maybe I don't have the right records.

Mark, Wednesday, 19 June 2002 00:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

My favorite single song by him is "You have c*m in your hair and your dick is hanging out."

Mark, Wednesday, 19 June 2002 00:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

My favorite single song by him is "You have c*m in your hair and your dick is hanging out."

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 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

"I See A Darkness" is my favourite. "Arise therefore" is just plain WEIRD. What makes him interesting? For me, his obsession with Madonna when he was a teenager. hahah He's actually not that interesting. I don't get it why some people all go gaga over him.

nathalie, Wednesday, 19 June 2002 00:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

i thought about doing a wire-style "primer" for ft on oldham when i realized that i own almost all the records. odd, that, as i'd never think to consider oldham a "favorite" in passing coversation, but you can't pick your friends etc. etc.

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 search:

"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 than normally.

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 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

Will Oldham = accessible Jandek. It's one step away from/closer to complete Indie Guilt of course. hahahah

nathalie, Wednesday, 19 June 2002 00:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

I like pretty much ever release, some more than others. Viva Last Blues has been my favorite for a long time, Days in the Wake a close second.

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 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

I really, really like "Arise Therefore," more than just about anything else of his. Am I alone in this?

Colin Meeder, Wednesday, 19 June 2002 00:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

My favorite song of his is "Gulf Coast", where he sings, "We could watch a blue heron in flight/We could see the sights in town". It's lonesome and funny at the same time and wonderfully perverse. Above all, I think he's a fabulous singer. That's what keeps me listening, even when most of his songs are dull.

Curt, Wednesday, 19 June 2002 00:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

It makes me very happy to know Jess is a Will Oldham fan.

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 album.

Ronan, Wednesday, 19 June 2002 00:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

A lot of his albums leave me fairly cold, but the first half-dozen or so singles, oh MAN. "Ohio River Boat Song," "Trudy Dies," "Horses," "West Palm Beach"... also "Riding" from the first album, which I've heard covered a few times.

Douglas, Wednesday, 19 June 2002 00:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

Search: There Is No-One, Days In the Wake, the Hope EP, Viva Last Blues, The Mountain EP, Lost Blues and Other Songs (most of those great singles, all in one place; "Come In" is the one that kills me every time), I See a Darkness (this didn't do much for me until nearly a year after its release; now it's one of my faves), Ease Down the Road (perhaps his prettiest, if no less occasionally befuddling).

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 A,T.

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 live.

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 (sixteen years ago) Permalink


here's a pic of Will

Steve K, Wednesday, 19 June 2002 00:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

God! I completely forgot about the "If I could fuck a mountain..." line! That was CLASSIC. Viva Last Blues is a very special record, I'll say, search that.

Keiko, Wednesday, 19 June 2002 00:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

I remember seeing him play live around 1994 or so--he did an incredible solo acoustic song that it took me years to figure out was actually Bob Dylan's "New Pony." When I heard Dylan's version, I was surprised that he'd noticed it was actually a good song.

Douglas, Wednesday, 19 June 2002 00:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

Had a copy of a compilation called Guarapero: Vol 1 (something like that). The live tracks are storming! And there's a nice cover of AC/DC's big balls. The stuff he does with a drum machine isn't so good and I skip it. Its a good collection overall but somehow never got round to getting anything elase by him. Should see him live as well.

Julio Desouza, Wednesday, 19 June 2002 00:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

melodious oldham recommendations:
  • lost blues and other songs (singles/rarities comp) - search "lost blues", "marriage", "west palm beach"
  • side 2 of viva last blues
  • "one with the birds", "patience/take however long you want", "little boy blue", "trudy dies" (the 7" version) singles

definitely some melody there for you. check out the peel session of "you have cum in your hair..." which I like better than the original.

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 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

Jason Morphew's better, and he's the genuine article. Ever heard of him?

Todd Brandenburg, Friday, 21 June 2002 00:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

I See a Darkness is top. Saw a show right before that album was released & it was totally brilliant and scary. He's got some excellent songs (O How I enjoy the light & most of the first singles comp., for starters) & the lyrics tend to not fit properly in a fascinating way..
On the other hand I was in a record shop the other day & one of his new discs was on, and I wanted to scream I HATE Will Oldham! he's off key, he can't sing, this song is slow, and boring, and wretched, and only a college kid stopped up with indie guilt and lowered standards would think this was worth a moment of his/her time, and I HATE Will Oldham! argh!
Any artist that draws that kind of reaction is worth investigating, I think.

daria gray, Saturday, 22 June 2002 00:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink


Finally, something I can sink my teeth into.

david h(owie), Saturday, 22 June 2002 00:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

one year passes...
I think we ought to revive this thread, because Will Oldham rules.

I got Arise, Therefore today. PERFECT for my mood.

Ian Johnson (orion), Sunday, 30 November 2003 01:44 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

i am still kind of amazed that "i see a darkness" is ryan pitchfork's favorite record of the 90s.

fiddo centington (dubplatestyle), Sunday, 30 November 2003 01:48 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

i mean, it's good and all...

fiddo centington (dubplatestyle), Sunday, 30 November 2003 01:49 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I like him. Of course, there are many clunkers in the catalog, but, like my all time favorite artist Neil Young, Will experiments and follows his muse, which is more than can be said for 90% of the indie giants whose lives were changed forever by their 1993 discovery of Pet Sounds or whatever.

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 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

can somebody talk about master and everyone?

arjun (arjun), Sunday, 30 November 2003 18:15 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

i cant seem to remember much past the incredibly beautiful first track - i think its possibly too pretty, i dunno.

jed (jed_e_3), Sunday, 30 November 2003 18:41 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

master and everyone is good to sleep to. i listen to it alone but 'ain't you wealthy, aint you wise' is ok with people. the song 'maundering' resonates strongly with me. i just recently saw a movie called 'all the real girls' and there is an alternate version of 'even if love' that is striking. i enjoy mark nevers' detailed production but i could do without the extraneous ambient bits. the room sound is fine. i enjoyed seeing and hearing the songs of master and everyone performed live and differently, as a band. i'm glad there is a "greatest hits" record coming out soon (of re-recorded songs!!) does anyone know the release date?

russ p., Sunday, 30 November 2003 18:56 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Don't know about the release date. I too saw him live this summer and he performed everything by himself with an autoharp and an electric guitar. I was somewhat surprised that he changed the melody to every single song. Does he always do that?

Elliot (Elliot), Sunday, 30 November 2003 19:18 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

changed the melody to every single song

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 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

one month passes...
I too saw him live this summer and he performed everything by himself with an autoharp and an electric guitar. I was somewhat surprised that he changed the melody to every single song. Does he always do that?

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 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

two months pass...
There's an interview, full discography (no values for anything for some reason) and an incredible photo of will in the issue of record collector that came out a couple of weeks ago.

There's also a wonderfully twisted piece written by will in today's guardian.

hmmm (hmmm), Wednesday, 17 March 2004 09:53 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

four months pass...
"a minor place" (??) is so beautiful. especially the drumming--that's amazing drumming, in a very understated way.

(p.s. THANKS NA!!!!!!)

amateur!st (amateurist), Wednesday, 28 July 2004 03:13 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

strongo to thread?

amateur!st (amateurist), Wednesday, 28 July 2004 03:18 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

i really want to see oldham record some material with brian and maryrose crook - i missed their new zealand tour together..

chris andrews (fraew), Wednesday, 28 July 2004 03:29 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

yr welcome.

St. Nicholas (Nick A.), Wednesday, 28 July 2004 20:02 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

ease down the road has some great tracks, "careless love" being one of my favorite oldham songs. the album has a bouncy feel, good springtime record

russ p., Wednesday, 28 July 2004 21:23 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I've long been familiar with the early Palace/Oldham albums, but was never really a fan... never heard any of the singles... recently, I bought Lost Blues because I enjoy the Bonnie "Prince" Billy Sings Greatest Palace Music CD, and wanted to hear the original versions of the songs I didn't know... and, my god, what an incredible CD that Lost Blues is. I'm almost embarrassed at how perfectly it hits my early/mid-'90s Drag City sweet spot. "Gulf Shores" is currently my favorite song by anyone.

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 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

the bridge on "just to see my holly home" (??) is so lovely-- i like how it keeps going up and up and up when you'd expect it to cycle back to the beginning. it really has a quality of the ecstatic. so nice.

|a|m|t|r|s|t| (amateurist), Tuesday, 10 August 2004 03:44 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

sorry morris pavilion i dunno where'd you'd get that info. palace releases are notoriously taciturn when it comes to credits (i find this one of the more annoying aspects of his schtick actually).

|a|m|t|r|s|t| (amateurist), Tuesday, 10 August 2004 03:45 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

also what does that guitar part on "lion lair" remind me of (the one that goes up and down the scale pretty straightforwardly)? something about the song's lazy tune reminds me -- pleasantly -- of a lot of half-remembered late 80s/early 90s amerindie records, like maybe the last replacements record, or... crap, i cabn't put my finger on it. any help?

|a|m|t|r|s|t| (amateurist), Tuesday, 10 August 2004 04:10 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

i think happy will oldham is more interesting than monomaniacally depressed will oldham (ok, he was never quite so monochromatic as all that, but...)

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 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

i'm talking about the music more than the words, which remain pretty sui generis.

|a|m|t|r|s|t| (amateurist), Tuesday, 10 August 2004 05:05 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

i know this is just a misreading, but i sort of like how i always forget whether "holly" is the name of his girl or an adjective modifying "home."

|a|m|t|r|s|t| (amateurist), Tuesday, 10 August 2004 05:07 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

also i can't think of many songwriters who would risk a song that is: verse. verse. lead-up. chorus. end. full stop. ("raining in darling.") awesome.

|a|m|t|r|s|t| (amateurist), Tuesday, 10 August 2004 05:34 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I can't wait to work my way up to those Bonnie "Prince" Billy albums, now that I'm on an Oldham kick. (I just ordered the "Hope" EP and Guarapero.) I hope I continue to enjoy the new stuff I hear even half as much as I'm enjoying the songs on Lost Blues. (Today's pleasure: the little ascending guitar hook on "O How I Enjoy the Light.")

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 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

sorry for overposting. maybe in the year 2041 someone will discover this thread and share my predilection for armchair anaylses of will oldham tunes.

"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 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

i mean to write, if the song didn't have such an insinuating sound.

|a|m|t|r|s|t| (amateurist), Tuesday, 10 August 2004 16:18 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

the Hope EP was my favorite until this recent split with Brightblack (which I STILL don't even own)

roger adultery (roger adultery), Tuesday, 10 August 2004 16:56 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

The "Get On Jolly" EP (with Marquis de Tren) is the greatest thing he ever did. indeed, II-IX from it is one of the most beautiful songs ever written.

jed_ (jed), Tuesday, 10 August 2004 23:30 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

never really got into most of lost blues but the last song (think its the last one anyway) is incredible
also the brute choir

robin (robin), Tuesday, 10 August 2004 23:31 (fourteen years 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 (two years 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 (two years ago) Permalink

This is his most underappreciated song in recent years that I've heard.

Chris L, Wednesday, 3 August 2016 08:59 (two years 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) 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 (two years 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 (two years 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 (two years 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 (two years 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 (two years 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 (two years 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 (two years ago) Permalink

one year passes...

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 (one year ago) Permalink

two months pass...

Interesting early band history c/o Drag City:


posted April 1st, 2018


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.


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 (eleven months ago) Permalink

The letting go remains my favourite to this day

Eris (Ross), Wednesday, 4 April 2018 14:21 (eleven months 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 (eleven months ago) Permalink



meaulnes, Thursday, 5 April 2018 11:44 (eleven months ago) Permalink

two weeks pass...

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 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months 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 (ten months ago) Permalink

two weeks pass...

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 (ten months 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 (ten months ago) Permalink

two months pass...



Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Tuesday, 17 July 2018 19:48 (eight months ago) Permalink


an incoherent crustacean (MatthewK), Tuesday, 17 July 2018 21:05 (eight months ago) Permalink

Gotta say - whatever its "deal" may be, this song grabs me more than his stuff usually does (I've played it 3 or 4 times now).

i’m still stanning (morrisp), Tuesday, 17 July 2018 21:46 (eight months ago) Permalink



𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Tuesday, 17 July 2018 22:03 (eight months ago) Permalink

"Per a press release, the song came about after Oldham and his wife ate THC-laced chocolate-covered blueberries soon after the false missile alert that was sent in Hawaii at the beginning of the year. Oldham wrote the song during that experience, and then repurposed it a few weeks later to help out his friend that was opening a weed shop in California."

i’m still stanning (morrisp), Tuesday, 17 July 2018 22:42 (eight months ago) Permalink

lmao this is GOLD. thanks bill, you are the light of my life.

meaulnes, Wednesday, 18 July 2018 03:22 (eight months ago) Permalink


It’s prime time to pick blueberries n sell them at the local farmers market tbh

Ross, Wednesday, 18 July 2018 03:26 (eight months ago) Permalink

I smell a hit.

Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 18 July 2018 11:40 (eight months ago) Permalink

It’s his “Margaritaville,” not in a bad way.

... (Eazy), Wednesday, 18 July 2018 12:36 (eight months ago) Permalink

I think it is terrific… I am not a scholar, but I can't think of a song of his that's even remotely uptempo, other than "work hard Play hard." Incidentally, the only thing that recommends the new right wing american character that Sasha Baron Cohen debuted on the new show (somehow he can't do an american accent for shit) is that its eerily reminiscent of Will.

veronica moser, Wednesday, 18 July 2018 13:45 (eight months ago) Permalink

song of the summer

Allen (etaeoe), Wednesday, 18 July 2018 15:17 (eight months ago) Permalink

i love this and indeed blueberries

ogmor, Thursday, 19 July 2018 13:21 (eight months ago) Permalink

I'm fantasising over this coming out 20 years ago and Chris Evans hammering it on the breakfast show, turning him into a one-hit wonder

PaulTMA, Thursday, 19 July 2018 18:10 (eight months ago) Permalink

i know it's Oldham and I'd forgive him pretty much anything but this has got my 'shit whimsy' Geiger clicking like mad.

The shard-borne beetle with his drowsy hums (Chinaski), Thursday, 19 July 2018 18:53 (eight months ago) Permalink

oldham is one of favorite artists but i ignore probably 70% of the shit he's created

marcos, Thursday, 19 July 2018 18:55 (eight months ago) Permalink

(Side note: hadn't noticed that Superwolf has made it onto Spotify.)

... (Eazy), Thursday, 19 July 2018 20:25 (eight months ago) Permalink

He's been adding a year's worth of output to Spotify every Monday.

sctttnnnt (pgwp), Friday, 20 July 2018 00:06 (seven months ago) Permalink

I see a darkness is all time

Legalize dreams (Ross), Friday, 20 July 2018 00:09 (seven months ago) Permalink

this new song would be cornily endearing if BPB was a dad, but I'm pretty sure he isn't a dad

ilxor-com-dog-meat-drawer-7-840-x-600.jpg (unregistered), Friday, 20 July 2018 01:14 (seven months ago) Permalink

"Whipped" has climbed into my BPBPOV

rip van wanko, Friday, 20 July 2018 01:23 (seven months ago) Permalink

He seems like a person who is v. much enjoying life these days.

circa1916, Friday, 20 July 2018 02:26 (seven months ago) Permalink

The chorus of this song reminds me of the beginning of "Katamari On The Rocks"

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Thursday, 26 July 2018 02:55 (seven months ago) Permalink


Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Thursday, 26 July 2018 02:56 (seven months ago) Permalink

He seems like a person who is v. much enjoying life these days.

and yes I feel like a stalker

an incoherent crustacean (MatthewK), Thursday, 26 July 2018 03:26 (seven months ago) Permalink

The pics in the 2nd post were in a big NYT feature, so you could relax re: your stalker paranoia!

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Thursday, 26 July 2018 16:15 (seven months ago) Permalink

i never tire of looking at photos of artists' homes

marcos, Thursday, 26 July 2018 16:40 (seven months ago) Permalink

i never want to look at photos of artists' homes! it feels so invasive and gross to me. every time i have looked i wish i hadn't.

weird woman in a bar (La Lechera), Thursday, 26 July 2018 17:12 (seven months ago) Permalink

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