The Wonder Show of the WorldAlbum | Bonnie Prince Billy By Jim Allen
Poetic, powerful and poignant.
Will Oldham has been pumping out one great album after another since 1993 under a variety of aliases, though Bonnie “Prince” Billy seems to be sticking, having been in use since '99. But on The Wonder Show of the World, he seems to have accomplished the difficult task of sanding the eccentricities off his sound while focusing his music’s intensity. Oldham, who planted his flag as a quirky, lo-fi eccentric from the start, has released relatively polished, “professional”-sounding albums before, but it often felt like he was putting on a suit and tie to make a good impression on a visit to his in-laws. Here, the production is as stripped-down as that of his early albums, but the remaining elements are delivered with a level of care, craft, and inspiration that seems unprecedented for Oldham. The hillbilly cracks in his voice are replaced by a smooth, clear, even pretty tone; ragged, roiling guitars give way to simple-but-clean riffs, and come-as-you-are harmonies are eschewed for some downright CSNY moments. In fact, several songs evoke David Crosby’s classic solo debut, If I Could Only Remember My Name, which, like Wonder Show, offered what can only be described as art songs in a folk-rock format.