Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Stay 7″, 2009

stay frontOldham had already collaborated with Susanna Wallumrod earlier in 2009 on their 7” single “Forever And Ever,” doing two cover songs. On this cast-off, Oldham covers two Susanna songs from her album Sonata Mix Dwarf Cosmos. We’ve got several musicians including Emmett Kelly on the A-side, and just Kelly with Cheyenne Mize playing fiddle on the B-side, as per the Chijimi ten inch single released earlier in 2009. It appears this was released as a legitimate seven inch single by Drag City.

stay labelStay
… is a song about staying power. It’s unusual, in that so many Oldham songs are about leaving. Perhaps this is a masculine/feminine dichotomy. In this song the narrator battles with himself (herself?) apparently “living a lie / Hiding inside.” Apparently she’s been wronged (are all female singer-songwriters victims?) because “It’s hard to be a fool / For the devil in you / Who did me wrong.” Despite this she’s determined that she will be a fool because she’s decided to “stay this time / I’m gonna stay / Right here, with you.” She struggles with the decision comparing it to planting a seed in frozen soil and expecting it to grow. She admits that turning around and leaving everything you’ve ever known is too hard, so she’ll stay. One wonders why though? Like what’s happened beyond the fact that someone’s done her wrong? We don’t really know, thus we don’t really know why staying is such a tough decision. Perhaps he beats her up. Hm. The mood and instrumentation is slow and somber, lushly recorded, but quiet, spartan, and Oldham singing in muted tones, singing ‘beautifully.’ Jennifer Hutt provides vocal support. A violin whines over the chorus. It’s bleak, sad material, a scattering of autumn leaves, moody, a little chilly, regretful. Oldham interprets the material brilliantly. Musically, it reminds me of Mark Hollis’s solo album. Very clear, haunting. “Stay this time,” he intones as if trying to convince himself. Affecting stuff.

stay labelPeople Living… is a song about being outsiders, people living on the wrong side, though I’m not sure what that means exactly. The theme is the same as the A-side; she’s battling with herself over a tough decision: “What is real and what is good for all of us / How can it be that your convictions are gonna be valid to me?” she asks. The addressee of the song, the “you” that is being sung to, apparently wants to simplify things. The lyrics really only carry the suggestion of a mood, an unhappy life, the feeling that the narrator is living on the “wrong side,” the outside, wherever that may be. I guess there’s a bit of real pain in this song. It sounds like a messed up relationship and reminds me a bit of early Tindersticks in that sense. This Oldham version sounds like it was recorded in a cave. What a disappointment. One wonders if it was deliberate, but this is recorded live. Murky instrumentation, drones, textures, and another bleak vocal, which admittedly sounds wonderful when they get to the chorus. I’d love to hear a studio take of this. I would prefer this to “Stay” if it wasn’t for the awful production. Mize joins him for the chorus, and both of them sound like they’re down the far end of an echo tunnel. It sounds like post-traumatic breakdown. Terribly despondent.

stay backOldham was involved in four 7” singles in 2009. The fourth would be the Soulsavers release “Sunrise,” for which Oldham sings the title song, while the B-side is a cover of a Palace song sung by Mark Lanegan.

About Alan Bumstead Vinyl Reviews

Alan Bumstead is a music fanatic who humbly adds confusion to the world with a string of album reviews written during real-time-listening in a stream-of-consciousness style, then edited for spelling, punctuation, flow and grammar. Apart from an additional introductory paragraph, the writing is improvised in time with the music. There is no re-writing. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- In his book Moving To Higher Ground Wynton Marsalis says, "Because jazz musicians improvise under the pressure of time, what's inside comes out pure. It's like being pressed to answer a question before you have a chance to get your lie straight. The first thought is usually the truth." I like to think that's what Alan Bumstead's all about.
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