On the Beat: Bonnie “Prince” Billy heads to the Englert

Bonnie "Prince" Billy
Bonnie “Prince” Billy says he adopted his pseudonym so that both the audience and performer can have a relationship with his music. — photo by Neff Conner

Bonnie “Prince” Billy w/ Bitchin Bajas

The Englert – Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. ($17.50 Advance, $20 Day of Show)

Bonnie “Prince” Billy is the recording name of Will Oldham, a Kentucky-born singer-songwriter. Oldham has been a fixture of the independent folk and country music since 1993 thanks to his various Palace projects (Palace Brothers and Palace Music are the best known), which have risen to legendary status over the years.

Bonnie became his stage name in 1998 and has become the moniker for Oldham’s output since then. His music—both the Palace projects and Bonnie “Prince” Billy—shares many characteristics with The Microphones, Devendra Banhart and Vetiver. In particular, they share his fondness for delving into the sounds and structures of American music.

For The Microphones — who later became Mount Eerie — the Americana sound became a launching point for noisy experiments and long-form storytelling. Oldham keeps his project considerably more grounded. Rather than branching off into weirdness, Oldham uses his songs to explore the inner workings of our psyches, actions and experiences here on Earth.

His penchant for clear, emotional storytelling fits well with his brittle yet pleasant croon, which recalls the Appalachian folk tradition in both its clarity and its affectivity. The result is music that is as haunting as it is touching. With each strum of his guitar, it becomes clear why Oldham has become an elder statesman in the indie community.

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