Thursday, February 02, 2012
A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF GIGS : WEEK 5 : JC TAKES UP A LATE INVITE
REVIEW OF BONNIE PRINCE BILLY - OLD FRUITMARKET, GLASGOW - SUNDAY 29 JANUARY
The phone went around 5pm on Sunday night. Basil Butcherboy lets me know there's a spare ticket to go catch Bonnie Prince Billy who is in town as part of Celtic Connections. I said yes...and discovered then there was a whole crowd going along including Robert Butcherboy and other musician friends of theirs whose depth of knowledge and love of all forms of music leave me looking a total novice.
My first exposure to Bonnie Prince Billy (aka Palace Brothers aka Palace Music aka Will Oldham) was via a Domino Records compilation LP a few years back, although I did know and love one of his songs - I See A Darkness - courtesy of Johnny Cash covering it on one of the volumes of American Recordings (it was volume 3). It was actually the original version of Darkness that was on the compilation....and whisper it....I preferred it to Johnny Cash's version. But other than picking up some of his songs on other compilations or from other blogs. That was until I asked Santa to bring me a copy of the 2011 LP Wolfroy Goes To Town.
It's an album that is Americana to the core. It is very sparse and basic sounding. Hugely acoustic and relying heavily on vocal harmonies, I can't quite make up my mind if it is a folk record or an old-fashioned country classic without the twangy guitars.
The live gig drew heavily on the songs from Wolfroy Goes to Town. Such is the hushed nature of these songs that I dreaded the 2000-strong capacity audience would, through talking or shuffling off to the bar between songs ruin the atmosphere. My fears were unfounded. The band had the audience mesmerised from the off....certainly in the area I was standing, from the beginning to the end some 110 minutes later, there was a reverential silence.
There were many great moments of beauty in this performance - many of them provided by the vocal talents of Angel Olson whose delivery on backing and occasional lead vocals came straight from the school of June Carter. Particular highlights were his own Beast For Thee, That's What Our Love Is, Black Captain and No Match. The biggest cheer of the night went to I Never Thought My Love Would Leave Me, a song he dedicated to UK folk artists June Tabor and Dick Gaughan who had both performed to great acclaim earlier on at the Celtic Connections festival....which demonstrated that this was an audience, while hugely appreciating Bonnie Prince Billy, were incredibly knowledgeable about the wider folk scene (I have to own up...I had to google June Tabor and I only know of Dick Gaughan because he's been namechecked by Billy Bragg)
My personal favourite was the final song of the night. A haunting, moving and quite frankly tear-jerking cover of the Merle Haggard song Because Of Your Eyes. That's when I finally made my mind up It had been a country gig.....and a damn fine one at that.
When I See A Darkness was aired...with a rendition that was one of the more upbeat tunes of the night - almost honky tonk in nature. It still got a great reception mind you.
Having said all these great things about the night, I do have to add that it was perhaps maybe 20 or 25 minutes too long for me in terms of the one-paced nature of the show. A wee bit more variety and I would have said it was a perfect night.
But then again...what do I know. One of my august company said immediately afterwards that it was a life-enriching event. Not going to argue with that...but while he and others might have thought they'd won the jackpot prize, mine felt like just the four numbers on the line....
mp3 : Bonnie Prince Billy - No Match