bonnie ‘prince’ billy – ask forgiveness

the music… god knows it brings me down… a long, long road

it feels very odd to listen to and write first about an album of one of my favourite artists that is not marked in my mind, memory and still everyday life. there is so much that will come to be written about the aesthetic, content and impact of will oldham’s music in future entries here. but it must be said that this album is one of the reasons i am now listening to and considering every album i own. this is one to which i may have listened in passing, but didn’t return.

it’s a question that will be asked many times here that will have an equal number of answers: what makes particular pieces of music instantaneously important to a person? and others not?

this album was released in 2007. it followed the last greatest moment of his work – as far as i was paying attention – in the album then the letting go of which i have two copies. so in sound, it’s not that different.

perhaps i missed it because i was in between lives at that point – moving from adelaide back to canberra. when you’re settled and/or in a rut, it’s easier to devote your head to listening to new music in such detail and awareness that you hear the smallest nuances and they in themselves take on meaning because you noticed them. those little things can filter upwards through the songs to make them exceptional. and mostly, once they’ve buried themselves somewhere in your brain, you rarely reconsider their brilliance.

having now asked forgiveness for not listening sooner, what do i make of this album?  i wonder if it’s because there’s nothing new in it – sounds, sentiment – that it didn’t meet me head on in 2007.  but to be honest, without changing genres altogether, what more could there possibly be when, as a musician, you’re simply expressing yourself? not what you think your fans want to hear to satisfy why they buy your music. or in the contrary, doing something to deliberately upset your fans for the sake of challenging them.

one notable entry is the cover of an R Kelly song – the world’s greatest. to be fair, this is a cover album like no other. but his ability to take something seemingly so far removed from himself and make it his own, as well as belongingto all who listen, is what makes his music so unbelievable.

it is as beautiful as ever. the lack of distinction from other more recent will oldham releases will one day make me appreciate that he kept expressing himself. but he can stop a verse in the right place, seemingly, and continue the sentiment in the next so that it means something slightly (completely) different.

better to ask forgiveness than permission


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