March 6, 2012

one with the birds

Last night I watched the Townes Van Zandt documentary Be Here To Love Me for the first time, after having it sit by my TV for far too many months now. After two bands coming through here in the last few days both put it on within minutes of arriving (and I was too busy flitting around to sit), I decided I needed to devote some time. I am so glad I did. My insides feel like they’ve been soaked in this vinegary sadness.

There’s a deeply affecting part of the movie where Townes’ voice is heard talking about a song he wants to write that’s just all about birds. He doesn’t sound to be in very good shape, although his spirits are high, and the thought of avian lightness seems to cheer him. “Let me tell you about the other one I’m gonna write; boy, my hand doesn’t work fast enough,” he tells his road manager. “There’s gonna be nothing, nothing in it but names of birds. It’s gonna start off with bluebird, and then something else, another bird, another bird, another bird …verse. Maybe a bridge. Nothing but birds.”

One With The Birds – Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy

Then this morning, this Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy song came on my shuffle, out of the thousands. It sounded to me like Will Oldham did almost exactly what Townes wanted, what with his lyrics of robins, doves, lovebirds, bobwhite, whippoorwill, seagulls, and hawks. I can’t find any direct connection between the two, but in my mind, it is a perfect bookend. Or I’d like to think it is.

“When we hide our feelings we may as well fly away”

After watching the biopic, I also decided to do some research into Townes’ Colorado connections. I’m now soliciting partners in crime for a TVZ roadtrip.

[amazing, unsettling bird art via autistic savant Gregory Blackstock]

April 10, 2011

seven swans reimagined

Seven Swans Reimagined is a whole album of excellent Sufjan covers from indie artists including Joshua James, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, and a band called Unwed Sailor that I once saw in Nashville (and bought their tshirt for an unwed sailor I know, as marketing). All profits benefit breast cancer research, also a worthy cause we can support. Go check it out and donate $10 for some beautiful tunes. That doleful cello is so rich on Joshua’s version:

[thanks Jodie!]

April 8, 2009

Bonnie Prince Billy blazes in Denver


Shortly after touching down in Denver on Sunday night after my jaunt to Chicago, I jigged my way over to the Bluebird Theater to see the Bonnie Prince Billy show. Will Oldham sold out that venue (something that surprised many last-minute arrivals), and put on a sublime show that was heavier on the rollicking country vibe than his previous elegantly hushed songwriting. He played with a full backing band, including the arresting violinist/vocalist Cheyenne Mize with a huge voice — their duets together were just gorgeous.

I shot pictures for the Denver Post’s Reverb site, so head on over to read John Moore’s sharp review, and take a look if you’ve always wanted to see Will in his long johns (he took his pants off on stage, saying he didn’t expect it to be so damn hot).

The duet with Mize on “The Girl In Me” (available on the Louisville Is For Lovers compilation) was particularly noteworthy, and looked something like this:

Bonnie Prince Billy’s latest album Beware is out now on Drag City.

And speaking of concert photos — I’ve added the Mountain Goats/John Vanderslice ones from last week to the original review.

January 13, 2009

Beware, Will Oldham: “You Can’t Hurt Me Now”


Will Oldham (Bonnie “Prince” Billy) played a song from his new album yesterday for WNYC’s Soundcheck. A gutting number called “You Can’t Hurt Me Now,” it’s redolent with old country warmth and lonely sorrow.

Beware is out March 17th on Drag City, and as Will says, the title of the album his caveat to you: “I can’t tell you if this is good for you or not.”

[photo credit Mark Whiteley, and thanks Tim]

July 13, 2007

Guilt By Association: Some will win, some will lose (some are born to sing the blues)

No need to hide — there’s a new compilation CD coming out August 28 from Engine Room Recordings called Guilt By Association, which nobly is working to “bridge the gap between TRL and Pitchfork.” It’s a shrewd concept album which realizes that for each of us, maybe behind those thick black spectacles, chunky haircut, and Strokes t-shirt, is a soul screaming along the words to Mariah Carey on our car stereos.

A project of Engine Room Recording’s co-founder Peter Block, working with music supervisors Randall Poster and Jim Dunbar (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The School of Rock and my second-favorite TV show Lost), the album asks the indie stars of today to reinterpret their favorite guilty pleasure songs for our auditory enjoyment. There are hits and misses (and I boldly do not feel guilty about liking some of these originals), but check the tracklist –

1. Petra Haden: “Don’t Stop Believin’” (Journey)
2. Devendra Banhart: “Don’t Look Back In Anger” (Oasis)
3. Mark Mulcahy: “From This Moment On” (Shania Twain)
4. Luna: “Straight Up” (Paula Abdul)
5. The Concretes: “Back For Good” (Take That)
6. Jim O’Rourke: “Viva Forever” (Spice Girls)
7. Goat: “Sugar We’re Going Down” (Fall Out Boy)
8. Will Oldham/Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy” “Can’t Take That Away” (Mariah Carey)
9. Woody Jackson Orchestra featuring Money Mark: Love’s Theme (Love Unlimited Orchestra)
10. Porter Block: “Breaking Free” (High School Musical)
11. Mooney Suzuki: “Just Like Jesse James” (Cher)
12. Geoff Farina: “Two Tickets To Paradise” (Eddie Money)
13. Casey Shea: “Chop Suey” (System of a Down)
14. Superchunk: “Say My Name” (Destiny’s Child)
15. Mike Watt: “Burning For You” (Blue Oyster Cult)

The arguably crazy Devendra Banhart has been called “one of our favorite freaky people” by The Black Crowes, and here he takes on Oasis with his trademark warbly folk meandering. If you prefer fragile delicacy over confident generational anthems, this is just for you:

Don’t Look Back In Anger (Oasis cover) – Devendra Banhart
(link removed)

Will Oldham / Bonnie “Prince” Billy busts out the aforementioned Mariah Carey. Well, not exactly busts out. More like lets the slow jam ebb out. It’s playful and surprisingly enjoyable.

Can’t Take That Away (Mariah Carey cover) – Will Oldham/Bonnie “Prince” Billy
(link removed)

Go to the MySpace page to hear Petra Haden tip her hat to my boys in Journey with a sunny acapella-harmony-deelite version of “Don’t Stop Believin’” with some Wilson Phillips tossed in at the end just to really drive that guilty pleasure idea home. I think that the last time I did karaoke I tried my hand at covering the same song; pretty sure it didn’t sound as bubblegum delectable. The crowd may have, in fact, stopped believing, despite my exhortations to the contrary.

Subscribe to this tasty feed.
I tweet things. It's amazing.

Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

View all Interviews → View all Shows I've Seen →