There’s no shortage of Will Oldham material out there, and so I’ve read, it’s particularly hard to discriminate which versions are which when downloading off of file-sharing clients (not that we condone that, wink wink). Several songs have been re-recorded, and each album seems to be credited to a different name (Palace, Palace Music, Palace Songs, Palace Brothers, Will Oldham, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, etc.). That said, just about all of them are worth a listen, at least two of them, Palace’s Viva Last Blues and Bonnie’s I See A Darkness, are absolutely indispensable. But his most recent effort, a collaboration with former Chavez guitarist Matt Sweeney titled Superwolf, is quickly joining the ranks of those two records as one of Oldham’s most essential recordings.
Superwolf, at first, seems more stripped-down, songs often consisting of little more than electric guitar, Oldham’s vocals and Sweeney’s backing harmonies. But within each subdued gem is a great amount of depth. Like Cat Power with soupier production or Smog with better equipment, Superwolf is an instant indie-folk classic. There are louder moments, like hard rocking opener “My Home is the Sea,” which includes the laugh-out-loud line, “I love my tummy/it’s round and firm and funny.” But some of the best are the simplest, like the Sweeney-sung “What Are You?” or the vaguely spiritual standout “Lift Us Up.”
Like any of Oldham’s albums, Superwolf takes a few listens before it truly reveals its beauty. But it’s a lasting beauty, one that will warrant repeated listens and a permanent place on any true fan’s CD shelf.
Cat Power – Moon Pix
Bonnie “Prince” Billy – I See A Darkness
Pajo – Pajo
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.