wears the trousers magazine

cheyenne mize & bonnie ‘prince’ billy – among the gold EP (2009)


Cheyenne Mize & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy
Among The Gold EP ••••
Karate Body Records 

It is easy to forget that the human voice is a remarkable thing. Perhaps we often fail to regard it with the awe that it deserves because it is everywhere; our lives are constantly soundtracked from every angle by songs and voices in such profusion as never known before in history. There was apparently a time before headphones when a whole family would gather round a gramophone, or even sing together for entertainment. Granted those are times that few of us can recall, but Among The Gold lets us glimpse into that golden era without the need for time travel. A gem of a collaboration between Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy (aka Will Oldham) and his latest muse Cheyenne Mize – resident fiddle whizz in Louisville acoustic roots collective Arnett Hollow and a member of Oldham’s touring band – it follows on from their first recorded coupling on March’s limited edition Chijimi EP.

While the six songs on Among The Gold possess a similarly dusty aesthetic as the four on Chijimi, their vintage is truly authentic. Originally written between 1873 and 1915, the songs are reinterpreted here by Oldham’s familiar delicate warble mingled with Mize’s plaintive and pure, childlike voice. A bit of research tells us that Mize chose all the songs (hence the top billing), and her dedication to an honest presentation of the material is clear in every note. Among The Gold demands in the sweetest tones that you sit back and listen. The lullaby feel of songs like ‘Only A Dream’ and ‘Beautiful Dreamer’ requires very little other than for you to allow yourself to get comfortable and simply be sung to – far less demanding than previous Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy outings like I See A Darkness, for example.

Some of the songs here may already be familiar to an American audience. ‘Silver Threads Among The Gold’, the EP’s oldest song, is now a popular number for a barbershop quartet. There are no baritone coiffeurs here, of course; the song is stripped down to just Oldham and Mize echoing the sentiment of the slightly maudlin lyrics with light precision, singing to each other as though the life in them and the years are calmly drifting by. What is most striking is that both artists sound completely at home with this material. The spoken word parts sound utterly sincere, as do the duets. Moving in its simplicity, Among The Gold is truly remarkable in that it shrugs off its modernity with consummate skill. As a recording of yesteryear it sounds wholly genuine, and deserves to be viewed as more than just a curio. Tight little nuggets of greatness like this don’t come along often.

Chris Catchpole
UK release date: 04/05/09; www.myspace.com/arnetthollow


FREE MP3: Cheyenne Mize & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, ‘Kiss Me Again’




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[…] Pedder/Alex Ramon, posted on 20/4] 02 Cheyenne Mize & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Among The Gold EP [Chris Catchpole 11/5] 03 Tori Amos – Live at the Savoy Theatre 11/5 [Léigh Bartlam  15/5] 04 […]

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