GRUBB STREET: Over the course of the past year or so, Delaware’s Dogfish Head Brewery has involved itself with musicians like Miles Davis and Del the Funky Homosapien as the impetus for a series of limited release ales. For the latest release, Sixty-One — a hybrid brew that veers into wine territory by adding a touch of Syrah grape must from California to its 60 Minute I.P.A. — the cult beer-maker’s president and founder Sam Calagione recruited “Appalachian post-punk solipsist” and loyal Dogfish Head drinker Bonnie “Prince” Billy (nee Will Oldham) to cut a couple tracks for the launch. Five-hundred vinyl records were pressed to go along with sales of the beer, but you can only get those at Dogfish Head’s brewery and brewpub in Delaware. However, if you just want to listen to the new songs, Grub Street has those right HERE
NEW YORKER: Oldham remains an elusive figure, but the show is a gentle reminder of why he is often cited as one of the finest singer-songwriters in contemporary American music. Oldham was a student of music history, clearly, but he never sounded studious. He had an eerie, strangulated voice, half wild and half broken. And he sang vivid and peculiar songs, which sometimes sounded like old standards rewritten as fever dreams or, occasionally, as inscrutable dirty jokes. These days, he calls himself Bonnie “Prince” Billy, and his music is a little bit easier to love and a lot harder to dismiss. He has settled into character as an uncanny troubadour, singing a sort of transfigured country music, and he has become, in his own subterranean way, a canonical figure. Johnny Cash covered him, Björk has championed him (she invited him to appear on the soundtrack of “Drawing Restraint 9”), and Madonna, he suspects, has quoted him (her song “Let It Will Be” seems to borrow from his “O Let It Be,” though he says, “I’m fully prepared to accept that it’s a coincidence”). One tribute came from the indie folksinger Jeffrey Lewis, whose song “Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror” affectionately portrays Oldham as both a hero and a brute; the joke is that most indie-rock listeners already think of him that way. And a recent, unenthusiastic review in the London Independent nonetheless concluded that Oldham was “the underground artist most likely to work his way into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” Although he has never signed with a major label, and has never risen higher than No. 194 on Billboard’s album chart, his concerts sell out all over the world. If he remains a spectral figure, that is no coincidence. In an online tour diary from a few years ago, he wrote, “It is more rewarding to be complicit with scarcity than excess.” MORE
PREVIOUSLY: I HEAR A DARKNESS: A Q&A With Will Oldham
Strange long-form ad For Dogfish Head reaturing Will Oldham & a robot.