Will Oldham Seafarers Music

One more moniker and we’re gonna need a flow chart. In brief: Will Oldham is his given name. Throughout the 1990s, he recorded heartfelt, sparse acoustic music under a variety of Palace-themed projects (Palace Songs, Palace Music, Palace Brothers, etc.). In 1998, he retired Palace and re-emerged as Bonnie "Prince” Billy, which aside from a few minor titles under his birth name, has been his preferred nom-de-plume ever since. Now "Prince” Billy has gathered a team of Nashville session pros — horn players, fiddlers, slide guitarists, back-up singers — to lay down a tribute album to his former self. Sings Greatest Palace Music is the opposite of what Oldham has come to represent — where he is sparse, it is lush; where he is minimal, it is layered; where he can be deliberately obtuse, it is straightforward. For anyone frustrated by Oldham’s wilfully lo-fi, deliberately underdeveloped arrangements, but who thinks his songwriting is brilliant, this will be one of his most satisfying releases. But for those who believe that his ornery stubbornness is key to his charms, tracks like "I Send My Love to You” will seem frustratingly overcooked. It’s a remarkable exercise, where Oldham walks a line between the studio country of Nashville in the ‘70s, and Ween’s 12 Golden Country Greats. In the end, Sings Greatest Palace Music is another fascinating entry from this reclusive narcissist. Seafarers Music, meanwhile, is a four-song instrumental ode to four sailors featured in an independent documentary filmed in the Dutch port of Rotterdam. It’s on the sparser side of Oldham’s muse — all squeaky guitar strings and minimal melodies, and while it’s occasionally lovely, it certainly falls to the less-than-essential side of the "should I or shouldn’t I” purchasing debate. (Drag City)