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Published: 2011/12/14
by Ron Hart

Bonnie "Prince" Billy
Wolfroy Goes To Town, The Mindeater EP

Bonnie “Prince” Billy
Wolfroy Goes To Town (Drag City)

Phantom Family Halo And Bonnie “Prince” Billy
The Mindeater EP (Knitting Factory Records)

After a lackluster second half of the 00s, 2011 has seen indie rock royalty Bonnie “Prince” Billy on the comeback trail with an intriguing pair of releases.

Wolfroy Goes To Town was recorded and mixed in Oldham’s native Kentucky with his six person touring band and scales back his sound to a rural hush that hasn’t been showcased since Master and Everyone. But the thing that sets these ten songs apart from anything else in the Bonnie canon is that prior to laying them down to tape, Oldham and took these songs out on the road, performing the album in its entirety at a May 2011 concert in Chicago’s Millenium Park as well as throughout the Free Florida tour of the Sunshine State that followed on Memorial Day weekend. And you can definitely hear the worn-in comfort and familiarity in the spare interplay of songs like “No Match” and “Time To Be Clear”, which must have fit perfectly alongside material off such mellow Bonnie classics as I See A Darkness and Ease Down The Road in concert. And on the impact cut “Quail and Dumplings”, the Bonnie Prince’s Cairo Gang guitarist Emmett Kelly pierces the quiet with an avant-rockabilly solo for the ages.

Also recent to Oldham’s world is The Mindeater, a collaborative four-song EP between the Prince and the Phantom Family Halo, an experimental pop group led by multi-instrumentalist Dominic Cipolla of the electric free-folk act Sapat. The two parties, both of whom cite Louisville as their hometown, met through mutual friend, Slint bassist Todd Brashear and recognized the their artistic computability in 2010 when Oldham joined the Halo onstage during a party celebrating the 13th anniversary of Brashear’s cult video shop Wild and Wooly Video and headlined by Roky Erickson. Apparently the combination got along so well together they sought to cement their creative kismet in the studio. And from those sessions sprang this loose bag of psychedelic Americana, highlighted by the CAN-gone-country vibe of their cover of The Everly Brothers’ “I Wonder If I Care As Much” and the cosmic throwback to Will’s Palace days on the title cut. The Phantom Family Halo have a stellar new album coming out in early 2012 called When I Fall Out. And if you dig the freaky flavor they have going on with this EP, you haven’t heard anything yet. Oldham should definitely not lose their number.

Both Wolfroy and The Mindeater ratchet up to some of Oldham’s strongest material this side of Superwolf. It would be great to hear how this new wave rides out for one of America’s most treasured talents.

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