WILL OLDHAM ON BONNIE "PRINCE" BILLY by Will Oldham

WILL OLDHAM ON BONNIE "PRINCE" BILLY

by , edited by

KIRKUS REVIEW

Indie-folk cult hero Will Oldham's oral dissertation on his enigmatic folk-rocker alter ego, Bonnie “Prince” Billy.

With the content composed solely of respected New York City musician Licht’s (Sound Art: Beyond Music, Between Categories, 2007) probing interviews with Oldham, the book sometimes slides into the kind of self-assessing navel-gazing usually reserved for the analyst’s couch. Nevertheless, Licht seems to know all the right buttons to push, allowing his subject to reel off into fits of philosophic banter about everything from the influence of dreams in his work to the usefulness of drugs in the creative process. Licht usually begins a chapter by hovering over a loose theme (film music, music as communal effort, recorded music as opposed to live music, etc.); then he often branches off on some strange and unexpected tangents, such as the viability of Jimmy Buffett, the main points of stage etiquette, Glenn Danzig and the pros and cons of going to sleep. But if there’s any unavoidable characteristic that runs throughout all these conversations, it's the importance Oldham places on exclusivity of taste and intimacy in music. For some readers, it may be difficult to interpret Oldham’s ideas about music being better as a personal experience than a mass public event as being anything but anti-social snobbery. However, it’s also hard to fault him for his principled stance when it comes to issues like his reluctance to license his songs for film and TV and his longtime unwillingness to deal with major labels or corporate entities. Although the book is strictly interview format, readers will gain a sense of Oldham’s personal narrative: He's a nomadic artist who has seemingly, almost unconsciously, drifted into an indie-music idealist’s dream career, forever hanging in the comfortable middle ground between fame and obscurity.

Gushy and long-winded at times, profound and eloquent at others.

Pub Date: Sept. 3rd, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-393-34433-2
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2012




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